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Matheson Kamin’s Best Releases for 2016

2016 has come to an end. That means, for many, the time has come to put together our “Best Of” lists for the year. Like every year, I have put together a list of the releases that have peaked my interest the most throughout the year of 2016. In no particular order, here is my List for Best Releases for 2016,  the albums that need one more mentioning.

1. 9 from Mark Nomad

9Massachusetts-based musician and songwriter Mark Nomad has had a long musical career creating Blues-Rock music. Starting out with the band Little Village, Nomad’s career has included being part of a very popular band before going out on his own as a solo artist. Within the time period in which Nomad has created his own music, he has amassed a total of nine releases. This includes his latest album of new material. The new release from Mark Nomad is entitled 9. While the newest release from Mark Nomad is his ninth album, the release also consists of nine musical tracks. So the number “nine” is very much present on Nomad’s new release. Just like the other albums that have made up Mark Nomad’s discography, 9 consists of tracks that are largely influenced by the music of the Blues. Like other releases in his discography, 9 from Mark Nomad once again show off the musician’s talent as both a songwriter and as a player. The tracks on the new release contain many different styles and sounds that keep the release nice and varied. With it being the ninth album in his discography, 9 from Mark Nomad shows that he is not slowly down.

Click HERE for the entire review for the album.

2. Counterpoint from Circuline

circuline_counterpoint_fc_300dpi-resized-v1-560x503The form of Rock and Roll called Progressive Rock (or Prog-rock for short) had its heyday back in the late 60s/early 70s. However, there have always been bands or solo artists out there that continue to create new Prog-rock. These bands draw influence from earlier bands like Emerson, Lake & Palmer, Gentle Giant, or even Peter Gabriel-era Genesis to create their own songs in order to keep the vision of the originators of the style alive. The newer songs being created are continuing to push the envelope of that style of Rock and Roll music in order to keep the music fresh. One such band around today that is doing their best to push the envelope of Rock and Roll by creating Progressive Rock is Circuline. Earlier in 2016, Circuline released their second album called Counterpoint. The album showcases the band’s Progressive Rock sound. Counterpoint from Circuline is a solid Progressive Rock release. Throughout the album, the band shows off its ability to create some of the most entertaining Prog-rock out there today. For fans of the style, this is a great album to add to your collection. And for those unfamiliar with the style, this is a great place to start.

Click HERE for the entire review for the album.

3. Unnecessary Commentary from Matt Hurray

matthurray2Back in 2012, California-based guitarist Matt Hurray released his debut solo release entitled Egyptian Surfer. That album found Murray creating songs that featured a strong Surf Rock sound. But the album also contained many other influences that gave the release a very wide array of sounds. The ever-changing style of music made Egyptian Surfer a strong release. Now, Matt Hurray has returned with a new release of original music. And while the focus of the music is once again on Surf Rock, Hurray’s new release is just as varied as his debut release. Hurray’s new album is entitled Unnecessary Commentary. The new release from Matt Hurray entitled Unnecessary Commentary is an album that is overflowing with eighteen tracks. Each and every one of them is a track that is sure to catch your interest. While Hurray’s influences from the likes of The Ventures or Dick Dale do come through in Matt Hurray’s playing, each song is definitely his own. And with the inclusion of other styles mixed in with the dominant Surf Rock influence, Unnecessary Commentary from Matt Hurray is a well-rounded release with something for nearly every taste.

Click HERE for the entire review for the album.

4. Trampling Out the Vintage from Tom Guerra

tomguerra12Connecticut-based guitarist and singer Tom Guerra has spent many years playing in a rock band called Mambo Sons. The band last released an album back in 2009 which was a double CD release called Heavy Days. Since then, however, the trio has been silent. But that changed recently when guitarist and singer Tom Guerra went out on his own. While Mambo Sons created music that was heavily blues-based, Guerra decided to incorporate more influences into his sound. For his new release of Trampling Out the Vintage, Tom Guerra does a great job of using the various influences he has picked up throughout the years. The resulting album’s 10 tracks are widely varied from one track to the next while they still contain a solid Rock and Roll base. Guerra has put out yet another album in Trampling Out the Vintage that would be very welcome in any Rock and Roll listener’s music collection.

Click HERE for the entire review for the album.

5. Badass Generation from The Paul Nelson Band

BA GenerationYears ago, Paul Nelson was the man who helped shape the sound of Winter’s music by playing guitar in the Johnny Winter Band. And now, years after the passing of Johnny Winter, Paul Nelson is finally making a name for himself by stepping out of the shadow of Winter. Currently, Nelson is creating his own music with his own band of musicians. In fact, the Paul Nelson Band has just recently released their debut album of Badass Generation. It is this album that allows the listener to experience the talent of Paul Nelson and his band. There are plenty of moments to enjoy on Badass Generation from The Paul Nelson Band. Along with the unmistakable influences from Johnny Winter, the band makes use of other influences that help to give shape to their music. Ultimately, the band’s music will appeal to fans of Winter and other Classic Rock artists alike. And with Paul Nelson having backed up Winter for as long as he did, the influences that rubbed off on him have made Nelson a musician to watch in the future. But for now, check out the Badass Generation release from The Paul Nelson Band and you won’t be sorry.

Click HERE for the entire review for the album.

6. Self-titled release from Fire Merchants

FM CoverPennsylvania-born musician John Goodsall has made a name for himself working inside the music industry. Near the end of the 1980s, Goodsall helped to create the Progressive Rock/Jazz Fusion band called Fire Merchants. While John Goodsall’s former band of Brand X had been rather progressive in its style of music, John Goodsall and Fire Merchants created a sound that exceeded the progressive nature of even Brand X’s style. It was with the help of bassist Doug Lunn and drummer Chester Thompson that Fire Merchants came into being. Together, Goodsall, Lunn and Thompson created the debut self-titled album from Fire Merchants. Having been released back in 1989, the self-titled release from Fire Merchants ended up being one of the most overlooked albums from that year. However, as a way of celebrating the 25th anniversary of the album, Europe-based Gonzo Multimedia gave the album a proper re-release in 2014. Along with the original 11 cassette-release tracks from back in 1989, the 2014 re-release comes complete with two additional tracks of “Healing Dream” and “Nuclear Burn”. The newly-extended self-titled release from Fire Merchants is now even better at over one hour long and is begging to be heard.

Click HERE for the entire review for the album.

7. X Waters from The Whiskey Hollow

thewhiskeyhollowMy introduction to singer-songwriter Madeline Finn and her music came with a pre-arranged open-mic called Brent Kirby’s 10×3 where Finn performed three songs. At the end of those three songs, I found myself thinking that that time on stage for Madeline Finn simply wasn’t long enough as I wanted to hear more from the singer. And with a voice that reminds me of Norah Jones, Finn has a quality that begs you to listen. When I finally was able to hear X Waters, the new release from Madeline Finn and the rest of her band called The Whiskey Hollow, I was not surprised as I had already experienced Finn’s sound and style. I was also not disappointed as the music contained within the seven-song release was everything I had enjoyed live plus even more as the release from The Whiskey Hollow took the acoustic sound from Madeline Finn and expanded upon it. X Waters from The Whiskey Hollow is strong from the very first song and never lets up. And with the different genres and styles of music used to bring Madeline Finn’s words to life, the listener has plenty of things to keep them entertained.

Click HERE for the entire review for the album.

8. The Bad Guy from Man Called Noon

the-bad-guyBack around 2010, I had been introduced to the Chicago-based band Man Called Noon. At that time, I became familiar with the band because of their album Broke and Beaten Down. Several years after reviewing 2009’s Broke and Beaten Down, and after having released another album in the meantime entitled Edge of the Night, Man Called Noon returns with their newest album entitled The Bad Guy. With this album, the band creates a slightly different style of music than what had come before. This new lineup for Man Called Noon incorporates some of the old sound and feel of the band while also taking the band’s sound in a new and more interesting direction. While I was already familiar with Man Called Noon, the band’s new album was a nice surprise. The new release from Man Called Noon finds the band creating a much stronger vibe than what had appeared on the band’s 2010 album of Broke and Beaten Down. The Bad Guy contains better musicianship, stronger songs and an all-around better sound. If unfamiliar with Man Called Noon, The Bad Guy is the perfect place to discover the band for yourself.

Click HERE for the entire review for the album.

9. Everybody’s a Good Dog from Diane Coffee

Diane CoffeeShaun Fleming has spent time in the entertainment world. In fact, Fleming’s acting credentials are quite impressive. And with those acting credentials come Fleming’s musical credentials, as well. You might know his name as part of the band Foxygen where he played drums. Now, Shaun Fleming has taken his musical experience and put it to good use as part of a relatively new project called Diane Coffee. The music of Diane Coffee has been described as “Psychedelic Motown”. That seems to be a relatively good description as that is very close to what the band sounds like on some of their songs. However, that is just the beginning of what the band sounds like. With elements of Funk, Blues, Melodic Rock and other sounds, Diane Coffee has a lot more substance to their music than much of today’s Top 10 musical acts. And that musical blend has made its way onto a couple CDs from the band- 2013’s My Friend Fish and 2015’s Everybody’s a Good Dog. Everybody’s a Good Dog from Diane Coffee is one of the more unique releases of the last year. It brings lots of different influences to life at one time and those influences combine to create a style that seems to incorporate nearly something from every different era within the age of Rock and Roll. That combination of styles makes for a solid album that’s worth checking out.

Click HERE for the entire review for the album.

(The following two releases are from the same artist of Michael McDermott. McDermott created two albums, one under his own name and one under the band moniker of The Westies. As the two albums came from the same artist and feature the same writing style, it was difficult to choose which of the two was the better release. Therefore, I included both of the albums on the list.)

10A. Six on the Out from The Westies

515NZWZxw3L__SS280What happens when you have a rather interesting and checkered past? Well, you write songs based around it. That is precisely what singer-songwriter Michael McDermott has done with the help of his wife Heather Horton. Together, McDermott and Horton got together to create songs that have a rather dark side to them, as the songs deal with the not-so-pretty side of life; the side of life that McDermott knows all too well. Together, Michael McDermott and Heather Horton make up the core of the band The Westies. With The Westies, Michael McDermott and Heather Horton have created songs that deal with the grimy underground that exists within society. Having already created one album in 2015 entitled West Side Stories, the musical outfit has returned after only one year from the release of that album with what amounts to being “part two” of the concept. That newly-released second album is called Six On the Out. The Six On the Out release from The Westies has many moments worth hearing. While there is a lot of darkness within the lyrics of the songs on the album, it is the musicianship of the players on the album and the writing of the songs themselves that add up to create a very strong album. Bottom line, this album is as good as anything available on a major label.

Click HERE for the entire review for the album.

10B. Willow Springs from Michael McDermott

willow-springsRight around the same time that Michael McDermott was recording music for the Six on the Out release, he was also recording other songs that were to be used for his newest solo release. And since the same group of musicians were used for both the Six on the Out album and the new Willow Springs release from Michael McDermott, the two albums have the same basic musical approach in their songs, but the tracks used for each album had their own feel to them. With Six on the Out, the tracks stuck to a more rockin’ feel to the music while the tracks for this album of Willow Springs stick more to a singer-songwriter approach. Willow Springs, the newest solo album from Michael McDermott, shows a slightly different side to McDermott than his previous album of Six on the Out, the album released under the moniker of The Westies. The singer-songwriter side of McDermott shines through on Willow Springs and the album contains many moments that the listener will enjoy.

Click HERE for the entire review for the album.

 

Part Two of the list for Matheson Kamin’s Best Releases for 2016 is a short list of some of the best tracks that were released during 2016.

1 Circuline “Forbidden Planet

2 The Whiskey Hollow “Hudson Hill

3 Diane Coffee “Soon To Be Wont To Be

4 Man Called Noon “The Bad Guy

5 The Westies “If I Had a Gun

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Reviews and Suggestions

CD Review: Mark Nomad “9”

Massachusetts-based musician and songwriter Mark Nomad has had a long musical career creating Blues-Rock music. Starting out with the band Little Village, Nomad’s career has included being part of a very popular band before going out on his own as a solo artist. Within the time period in which Nomad has created his own music, he has amassed a total of nine releases. This includes his latest album of new material. The new release from Mark Nomad is entitled 9.

While the newest release from Mark Nomad is his ninth album, the release also consists of nine musical tracks. So the number “nine” is very much present on Nomad’s new release. Just like the other albums that have made up Mark Nomad’s discography, 9 consists of tracks that are largely influenced by the music of the Blues.

9 from Mark Nomad begins with the song “Shrine”. The track features a strong and steady beat that was created by the team of bassist Peter King and drummer Sturgis Cunningham. That strong, steady beat is the perfect musical bed for a Blues-Rock track. The result is a song that combines a Blues foundation with a guitar sound that may remind some of the style of Jimi Hendrix. The driving track of “Shrine” seems to have been written as a way to pay homage to some of the best musicians that have come and gone, to now live in music history. “Shrine’s” sound and the strength in its music help to lead off the 9 release in a very strong way.

For the song “It’s Time,” Mark Nomad changes musical directions in a big way. The main guitar for the track is a National Reso-Phonic played with a slide. The use of that guitar helps to create a solid Blues sound for the track. The song also features another strong beat created once again by bassist Peter King and drummer Sturgis Cunningham except for the fact that, instead of an electric bass, King has picked up the acoustic upright bass. That upright bass adds even more strength to the driving beat on the track. Like “Shrine” before it, “It’s Time” adds plenty of energy to the 9 release.

Joining up with drummer Dale Monette on the third track, Mark Nomad adds a lot more Rock and roll influence to the track “Give Your Love 2 Me”. In fact, the song is a lot closer to Rock and Roll than Blues. The track’s sound has basically a timeless feel to it and would fit into radio playlists from any of the last three decades.

Leaving behind the feel of the Blues for one track and taking his music in a completely acoustic direction, Nomad presents the track “Dadgad”. The acoustic track of “Dadgad” has a completely instrumental approach and is much closer to Jazz than Blues. The track features Nomad on an acoustic guitar as he creates a Jazz sound that includes just a little Middle Eastern flavor to it. To add even more body to the track, Nomad adds a lead acoustic guitar on top of the acoustic guitar that is creating the main feel of the music. Together, the two guitars work well together to create a track that sets itself apart from the rest of the album while also showing off the talent and versatility of Mark Nomad.

On the song “What’s A Man To Do?” the Blues feel of the music returns to Mark Nomad’s new release in a big way. The music of “What’s A Man To Do?” brings more than a little influence from the likes of someone like B.B. King while also incorporating the sound and feel of a horn section. The inclusion of the saxophone from Dave Trenholm adds a bit of energy to the music. The lyrics about a man having the blues while feeling like he’s on display for all to see as people laugh at him makes “What’s A Man To Do?” feel like a classic Blues tune. This is probably the strongest track on the entire release.

Although the majority of the tunes on 9 from Mark Nomad are original compositions, Nomad has included one cover tune to the album. On “Look Over Yonders Wall,” a track that was written by Elmore James. Nomad and the rest of the musicians combine to create a straight-out Blues track. But since the music of Mark Nomad is closer to Blues-Rock than plain Blues, the track takes the classic tune and gives it a lot more energy. Nomad’s version of this track recalls the energy and guitar playing of George Thorogood. “Look Over Yonders Wall” is another track that easily stands out on 9 from Mark Nomad.

The newest release from Mark Nomad comes to an end with the track “We Gotta Live Together”. This track was put together with a large amount of help from Jim Weeks who played most of the instruments and produced. The resulting track contains a strong Blues vibe with plenty of energy. But the song also contains a lot of beauty in the keyboards that help to add a nice balance to the energy contained within Nomad’s electric guitar. The final track of “We Gotta Live Together” ends up being one of the best tracks on the entire release.

9 from Mark Nomad once again show off the musician’s talent as both a songwriter and as a player. The tracks on the new release contain many different styles and sounds that keep the release nice and varied. With it being the ninth album in his discography, 9 from Mark Nomad shows that he is not slowly down.

To check out the songs from Mark Nomad, click HERE for the track “Give Your Love 2 Me”.

Click on the album cover below to purchase a copy of 9 from Mark Nomad.

marknomad7

 

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CD Review: Circuline “Counterpoint”

The form of Rock and Roll called Progressive Rock (or Prog-rock for short) had its heyday back in the late 60s/early 70s. However, there have always been bands or solo artists out there that continue to create new Prog-rock. These bands draw influence from earlier bands like Emerson, Lake & Palmer, Gentle Giant, or even Peter Gabriel-era Genesis to create their own songs in order to keep the vision of the originators of the style alive. The newer songs being created are continuing to push the envelope of that style of Rock and Roll music in order to keep the music fresh. One such band around today that is doing their best to push the envelope of Rock and Roll by creating Progressive Rock is Circuline.

Circuline is a modern-day Prog-rock band that consist of two parts: Part one of the band consists of the musicians Andrew Colyer on keyboards and bass pedals, Darin Brannon on drums, Beledo on guitars and Paul Renieri on bass (although Renieri was just recently replaced for the band’s Sonic Voyage Fest tour by bassist/sound mixer Joel Simches).

While the band’s music is created by the aforementioned musicians, the songs of the band would not be complete without the second part of the group, the two vocalists who add their vocals to the band’s songs. The two people who are responsible for bringing the band’s lyrics to life are: theatrical vocalists Billy Spillane and Natalie Brown. Together, Spillane and Brown complete Circuline’s sound. There is one more piece to the puzzle that is Circuline. It is with the help of lyricist Randy McStine that the band’s songs become complete. Together, the musicians, vocalists and lyricist all combine their talents to create one entity that is Circuline.

Earlier in 2016, Circuline released their second album called Counterpoint. The album showcases the band’s Progressive Rock sound. Counterpoint from Circuline begins with the track “New Day”. Right from the start of the track, the listener gets a taste of the progressive sound of the band as the musicians create a very loose jam before they bring the track around to create a very orchestral instrumental track. The track feels very much like it could have been created for background music for a movie. The inclusion of soundbites from NASA adds a definite outer space flavor to the track. This adds to the “background music” feel to the track.

One of the showcase pieces for the band comes very early in the playing time for the Counterpoint release by Circuline. Throughout its five-minute playtime, the track of “Who I Am” changes musical directions, tempos and even intensity several times. The song begins with a passage that feels like a very strong overture for a rock opera before the band changes the feel of the song. The intense feel of the music at the beginning of the track is something that sounds like it could have been created by the Trans-Siberian Orchestra. The song later takes on a more theatrical style that will remind the listener of something from Broadway. The music of the track alternates between intense and theatrical throughout the length of the song.

For the song “Forbidden Planet,” Circuline brings the outer space feel of “New Days” back. In fact, when bringing the song “Who I Am” into the mix as well, the three tracks create a mini Rock Opera type of feel to the tracks. The three songs come together to seemingly tell the story of a person who feels very out of place, as if he does not belong, no matter where in the universe he is.

One particular track of the Counterpoint release from Circuline that sticks out is “Hollow”. The song seems to have been not-so-subtly influenced by events that have taken place within the political scene in America for the last year or so. The lyrics to “Hollow” seem to bring to mind the mass hysteria created by everything that had taken place over that year or so of time. In fact, the track’s lyrics of “I Don’t Want to Follow You, I Don’t Want Your Hollow View” seem to express what many of us were thinking as we watched the campaign drag on. The uneasy feel to the prog-rock music on the track even seems to reflect the anger felt during the campaign. While you can easily interpret the lyrics as an answer to what took place recently, truth be told, those lyrics could be used for any heated campaign at any point in history.

In much the same way that the song “Who I Am” gave the listener a chance to experience the talents of every member of Circuline, the song “Nautilus” also showcases each and every member of the band as well as the band as a whole. From one second to the next, the band creates a track that features many different musical directions. Whether it’s a melodic passage of Rock and Roll where the keyboard is featured, a more aggressive section that features the guitar, or a section that finds the band playing collectively while creating what can only be described as jazz, “Nautilus” is one track on Counterpoint from Circuline that truly makes use of every member’s various musical influences.

After a full nine tracks that draw from many different musical styles, Counterpoint from Circuline comes to a close with the song “Summit”. The track features a musical direction that seems to be equal parts Rock and Roll and jazz as the guitar on the track adds a Smooth Jazz effect to a rather strong and solid beat. The combination creates one of the more unusual tracks on the album.

Counterpoint from Circuline is a solid Progressive Rock release. Throughout the album, the band shows off its ability to create some of the most entertaining Prog-rock out there today. For fans of the style, this is a great album to add to your collection. And for those unfamiliar with the style, this is a great place to start.

To check out the music for Circuline, check out the video to their song “Who I Am”.

For more information, check out the band’s PR firm, Leighton Media.

To purchase a copy of Counterpoint from Circuline, click on the album cover below:
circuline_counterpoint_fc_300dpi-resized-v1-560x503

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CD Review: Star Anna “Light in the Window”

Washington State-based singer-songwriter Star Anna has been creating her Americana music for several years at this point. During her career, not only has her style changed with each song that she has created, she has also taken her music in different directions over the years. Having already done the solo artist, singer-songwriter type of album on the release of Crooked Path, creating a duo with Mike McCready for the “Keep On” single and gone the full band direction with her backing band of the Laughing Dogs on Alone in This Together, Star Anna has once again changed artistic directions on her most recent release.

With the release of 2016’s Light in the Window, Star Anna has stripped her sound down to a straight acoustic approach. With only her guitar and guitarist Jeff Fielder to help flesh out each track on her new eight-song release, Star Anna’s Light in the Window feels like an acoustic album. And while it is an album that features acoustic music, the album contains all new songs and not songs that were redone in an acoustic style.

The new release of Light in the Window from Star Anna begins with the album’s title track. “Light in the Window” is a track that combines a strong folk music approach to the music with a little Blues influence to add a little “down and dirty” feel to the music. That bluesy feel is brought to life by the playing of Jeff Fielder whose guitar playing add a lot to the helplessness found in the lyrics to the track. Star Anna and Jeff Fielder work well together to bring the track to life.

The album continues with the track “Leaving Song”. Although the title track of the album is pretty strong by itself, it is the second track on the release that feels like the first single on the album. “Leaving Song” is a song that contains a strong melody with a very catchy refrain. And although the track contains only Star Anna and Jeff Fielder, you can almost imagine the track coming to life with the help of an entire band backing the two musicians up. It’s almost as if this track just missed out on being included on the album Alone in This Together when Star Anna was backed up by the Laughing Dogs.

Star Anna and Jeff Fielder slow things down with the next track. The two musicians take the music of the track “Big Bad Wolf” into a definite Folk direction. With guitar and mandolin, the song’s musical approach is rather gentle while the song’s lyrics about the singer wanting to do a little role playing with her as Little Red Riding Hood and her lover as the Big Bad Wolf add both a little fantasy and a little danger to the track. “Big Bad Wolf” turns out to be one of the more creative tracks on the new release from Star Anna.

Perhaps the prettiest moment on Light in the Window belongs to the song “3×3” Containing only a single guitar and Star Anna’s vocals, the track finds her singing a song to her true love. And when Jeff Fielder adds his voice to the lyrics, a definite duet feel to the song comes through.

The Light in the Window release from Star Anna continues with yet another song that seems to jump out at the listener. Like “Leaving Song” earlier in the release, the track “Man that I Am” all but begs to be heard. The folk-rock approach to the song brings to mind something that could have been written back in the 1960s. In fact, “Man that I Am” would have easily fit alongside songs from the like of Janis Joplin, Bob Dylan, even the Byrds. The song contains the same feel to the lyrics that would have come from artists like those. The song ends up being one of the standout tracks on the release.

After tracks that feature some Folk or Blues influence, Star Anna and Jeff Fielder close out Star Anna’s newest album of Light in the Window with the hardest rocking track on the release. The Acoustic Rock track of “Down to the Bottom” finds the duo letting it all out as they hit the acoustic song hard and fast. The two guitars and percussion on the track create a strong Rock and Roll vibe that leaves the listener wanting more.

When creating her albums, Star Anna always seems to incorporate several different musical directions in her songs. And even on her newest release of Light in the Window that features only Star Anna and Jeff Fielder as the only musical contributors, that variety still comes through. While the duo setting is quite a bit different from her previous releases, Star Anna’s newest album of Light in the Window still shines brightly.

To hear the music of Star Anna, check out her song “Leaving Song“.  

To purchase a copy of Light in the Window from Star Anna, click on the album cover below:
light