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Reviews and Suggestions

CD Review: The Del-Lords “Elvis Club”

Back in the late eighties, four musicians came together to form a rock band for the purposes of bringing a little life back into the somewhat stagnant rock scene in America at the time. The band that was intent on adding that energy back into Rock And Roll was called The Del-Lords. Made up of lead guitarist/vocalist Scott Kempner, guitarist Eric Ambel, bassist Manny Caiati and drummer Frank Funaro, The Del-Lords had a short but lasting effect on Rock And Roll. The band released several albums of music that did just what the band wanted- they put a little life back into the music.

And then, the band called it quits. Almost as fast as they appeared on the scene, the band quickly ceased to be. The Del-Lords only existed as a band for eight years before the four members of the group went their separate ways to further influence music as part of other groups. The only thing that remained of the group when they split up was the four studio releases and one live album that they put out during their time together.

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Reviews and Suggestions

New Artist Beall Releases So-So Rockabilly Effort

Laurence Beall – The Huntsville Sessions
Self-Released

About fifteen years ago, while most of the music-loving fans in the world had discarded the poodle perms, black leather pants and the gaudy turquoise and silver baubles associated with hair metal to embrace the slackerisms and flannel workshirts associated with grunge, a different sort were looking at huge belt buckles, cowboy boots, and pedal steel guitars. These folks were encountering, then hopping aboard the alt.country trend, a musical sub-genre championed by the likes of Uncle Tupelo, Jayhawks, Eric Ambel, Blue Rodeo and many other lesser-known acts. While grunge was known as bare-bones, meat-and-potatoes rock with no frills, the purveyors of the alt.country trend took “bare bones” a bit further, with most adopting a sound best described as Johnny Cash on meth as performers and devotees yearned for the perfect blend between traditional country circa 1958-1965 and rock and roll derived from the days of Sun records revved up with a post-punk modern feel. Though grunge also had a primitive feel, it had it’s own sound. In contrast, while the best alt.country and roots bands filtered their music through the prisms of punk and post-punk, an equal amount were enamored with simply striving to emulate their ’50’s and ’60’s heroes down to the bent notes on their paisley Telecasters. Though bands of this nature were found mostly on the second-tier, even the edgiest bands such as Uncle Tupelo showed their indebtedness to their heroes from Nashville on their sleeves and were careful not to stray too far from their country inspirations. It was the same catch-22 which modern blues players find themselves. How much do they honor their past and provide a touchstone to fans, while still blazing a trail and progressing their music so new generations will find elements to enjoy?

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Reviews and Suggestions

CD Review: Shady Cats Claw Their Way To The Top

Shady Cats – Love Callin’
Self-released

Right off the bat, one look at the liner notes for this release tells the story of an interesting dichotomy to this album, the debut from the band Shady Cats. Though there’s no mistaking that guitarist/multi-instrumentalist/singer/songwriter Grady Crumpler is the de facto leader of the band, on certain songs he almost seems like a guest artist on his own band’s album. Take for example the guest lead vocal from the esteemed popster Don Dixon, he of the ’70’s pop/rock band Arrogance and the early ’80’s MTV hit Praying Mantis fame. How often have you heard of a band calling in a better vocalist than the leader to take the helm on a song? I can’t speak for every album ever released but one would guess….never! It’s almost an unspoken rule never to show up the regular singer as he’s the one the band’s gotta live and die with from song to song and gig to gig but it happens here with Dixon. And not only with Dixon. A singer by the name of Phil Spence takes a lead vocal on the album as well. Not sure if he’s a “name” vocalist of not (as you can never, I’ve not heard of him before) but he sings better than Crumpler and better than Dixon as well, though that might be the fault of the song or the production. Then again, Dixon singing the phone book would be okay by me so maybe Spence is just killer.

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Reviews and Suggestions

Valente’s Day is Coming Soon – Gothic Country Style

Robert Valente – Alive
Label – Self-released

For many years, from the late ’70’s to the mid ’90’s at least, bands and artists seemed to be constantly trying to outdo each other as to how much money they could spend recording and producing an album. What started comparatively modestly with the then-huge budgets afforded bands like Pink Floyd and Fleetwood Mac later spiraled out of control as bloated act after act tried to spend as much as they could adding whatever gee-gaws they could to record their latest disaster-piece. Now, I am not talking about indie acts but mostly music released on the big labels at the time. Also, note that this endless spiraling of costs conspicuously coincided with the best money-making years of the music business and was a game played with artists as the labels wanted their artists to spend as much as they could so more could be recouped before any of these misguided artists got paid. Eventually, this spending proved their undoing as the business now sits, wasted and spent, headed towards certain extinction as the power of the Net has put business in the hands of the musician finally.

Enter artist Robert Valente, who seemingly prefers his music bare-bones and raw, which makes sense right now, with the music business in its’ huge sort of insanely terrible flux. Not that Valente seems to care a whit about the “music business” per se – this is music from an artist who sounds as if he recorded his album on his back porch. Which is not a bad thing, I guess, just a very interesting and often unsettling one, but in the way of the music being immediate and downhome, not in a “bad-quality” sort of way.