Category Archives: Solo

Album Review: Tim Barry – 40 Miler

If I had to describe Tim Barry in one word, that word would be “real”.  This former punk rocker turned folk rock hero is about as real as they get and I am not just saying that.  He is a talented musician and a wholesome human who just lives life day by day.  Barry, who used to front the legendary Richmond punk rock act Avail, has been going his own route since about 2004 playing solo shows all over the world.

In his fifth release, 40-Miler, Barry seemingly has taken his acoustic guitar and played from his hard-working heart.  The album was put out by Chucksaah Records.

It’s an honest and to the point album where Barry talks about his previous involvements in bands, travels, and personal reflections on the life he has lived.  The album leans more country driven than that of past releases by the man known to hitch rides on trains the old-fashioned way.  The result is hands down his best release I have ever heard to date.  It is safe to say that Barry may have created his own masterpiece without even thinking about it.

“Wezeltown” starting off the album with a soulful yet poignant Barry declaring “I pity the beautiful as the beautiful, they do pity me.”  Fueled by hand-clapping and realization, this song was more than an opening track, it was a preach aimed at all the hardworking folk out there who don’t take everything for granted.  “Driver Pull” was more like a personal conversation between the listener and Barry on a front porch moments before he hitches a ride out of town.

The title track “40-Miler” continued with the Barry’s storytelling and did not disappoint.  Reminiscing about his traveling times in boxcars and tour vans, Barry also states he has “nothing but miles and miles” to continue on.  I especially loved when Barry declared ” I’d rather stay broke than play fake ass shows.”

“Adele and Hell” was heavy on the country rock and perfect in every way.  The duet between Barry and longtime friend and local Richmond recording artist Julie Karr was a match made in heaven.  Karr gets down on this track with Barry that sings about a broken relationship.  The harmonica playing aside the twangy guitar accompanies the signing so well.  Hands down, this is one of the better tracks on the album.  I was floored when I heard it.

Barry pays tribute one of his bad ass friends who plays in Lucero as well as in Glossary in the track titled “T. Beene”.  This track, to me, was the country answer to NOFX’s “Punk Guy” with Barry recalling some crazy ass memories of a talented man who had lead an interesting life.

My favorite track on the album, “Fine Foods Market”, actually pokes fun at Barry as well as many of his fans who have “ironic mustaches” and drink PBR.  I loved when Barry sung “oh look there goes another hipster kid”.  He may have been making fun about everything, but was also quick to wonder how it all came about.

“Amen” was another amazing track full of Barry’s personal attributions and thanks accompanied by harmonica and acoustic guitar.  From singing about breaking his hand in Ottawa to almost making it to every scheduled show, Barry sang about his life on the road and even admitted sometimes he would rather just be home.  I especially got a kick out of the part where he praised a certain New Jersey band for letting him hitch a ride on their tour bus.  It was not just a song sung, it was a celebration of all the hard work Barry has ever done.  “Kick me in the head, watch me get right back up again” ends the album as almost a promise from Barry proving he is in this for the long run.

In a recent interview I did with Barry, he stated he actually erased 40-Miler from his he memory once it was completed.  He said , “when I am done with an album I step away from it.  This helps me gain perspective and hear it freshly.”  He called it a “recording detox”  and continued with, “I never have an intention with my albums. They come out the way they come out.”  How can you not love this man?

Tim Barry is currently touring in support of 40-Miler.  It is not a show to be missed.

Album Review: Dan Andriano In The Emergency Room – Hurricane Season

Dan Andriano, also known as the bassist/singer of Alkaline Trio, recently released an impressive solo album called Hurricane Season. Under the moniker Dan Andriano In The Emergency Room, the man took the album into his hands, literally.  He wrote all the songs, played/sang all the music (sans the organ, piano, and a couple of harmony vocals), and even produced it.  It is safe to say that Hurricane Season is indeed a true solo album.  The man even took it upon himself to supply the photos as seen throughout the album and booklet.

Andriano, in case you live under a rock, is one of the impressive three that make up the popular punk rock band Alkaline Trio.  Formerly of Slapstick, he is known these days for his distinguishable signing in many AK3 songs (including “Fine” as heard on AK3’s last full length This Addiction). Andriano has toyed with side projects in the past including a 2002 split as well as been a part of the punk rock supergroup The Falcon.   He writes, he plays, he performs, and this time with help from Asian Man Records, he has given his talent a challenge of sorts and dropped quite the impressive album.

“It’s Gonna Rain All Day” opens the ten track album with Andriano doing what he does best; write heavy, meaningful lyrics.  Such the sorrowful track with piano sneaking in and out of acoustic guitar playing making for one of my favorite tracks on the release.  “Hurricane Season” followed in a more upbeat rock feel with some familiar cries coming from Andriano’s pipes.  “Hollow Sounds” was more of an acoustic jam with many the reference to addicting temptations and comparisons revolving around a heartfelt memory.

“Let Me In” was a busy rock track throughout, impressive when you think that one man put it together by himself.  “On Monday” had a nice country/rock feel to it.  “The Last Day We Ever Close Our Eyes” was the closest thing on the entire album that resembled a heartfelt track.  Then came, “From This Oil Can”, a seemingly happy ending to Hurricane Season that easily was meant to swoon someone in a clever, direct way.  I really enjoyed this closing track a lot.

Hurricane Season was an album full of songs that easily could have been mistaken for AK3 b-sides or acoustic jams, but I know that is not at all what he was looking to do.  Dan Andriano In The Emergency Room was more of a personal sounding voyage with deep tracks most likely that have been trapped in his mind for quite some time.

Andriano does contribute quite a lot to AK3, so it is not surprising that a lot of the tracks on Hurricane Season are dark and lost.  Knowing though that this album is a solo release means that Andriano has offered so much more to it over the the typical 1/3 he probably does in AK3 as the two other members help make AK3 what they are too.  The result is a personal tribute to himself.  If anything, an amazing musician who probably just wanted to play some songs all by himself for others to listen to did just that.  I just hope he takes this solo project on the road, only time will tell. See tour dates below.  No Cleveland show, but who knows, maybe next time!

Fall Tour Dates:
Sept. 9th – Gainesville, FL at The Double Down
Sept. 10th – Naples, FL at Flieschmann Park
Sept. 11th – Ybor City, FL at Crowbar
Sept. 13th – Charlotte, NC at The Evening Muse
Sept. 14th – Chapel Hill, NC at Local 506
Sept. 15th – West Columbia, SC at New Brookland Tavern
Sept. 16th – St. Augustine, FL at Cafe 11
Sept. 24th – Chicago, IL at The Bottom Lounge

Quick Reviews: Sh*t Robot, The Chemical Brothers, J. Tillman

I have been getting tons of material lately for review consideration so I thought I would try something new and shrink down my usually lengthy reviews.  Nothing fancy, just trying to get the word out on some amazing bands and releases.  Enjoy.

Sh*t Robot – From The Cradle To The Rave

Marcus Lambkin, aka Sh*t Robot, has taken his time releasing his debut album – literally it has been 20 years in the making.  The Irish born punk rocker turned DJ has made a name for himself in the NYC club scene and even though has never recorded an album before has made a huge name for himself by just doing his thing.  I should also mention that Lambkin helped build that which is now DFA Records from the ground up.

From The Cradle To The Rave reflects Lambkin’s life as a DJ and more.  Opening track, co-written by LCD Soundsystem‘s James Murphy, “Tuff Enough?” is an electronic anthem of sorts with simple beats and synthesizer that was actually written about an upcoming expectancy.  “Losing My Patience” featuring Hot Chip‘s Alexia Taylor was a fun track that I think many of the dance clubs will have no problem spinning. “Simple Things (Work It Out)” was an entertaining experimental dance track of sorts with almost a spoken word feel to it.

My personal favorite cut on the album was “Take ‘Em Up” featuring another musician from LCD Soundsystem, Nancy Whang.  This song not only screamed retro 80’s but also heavily reminded me of what would happen if Daft Punk decided to sample a Sonic The Hedgehog soundtrack.  Whang’s vocals are perfect for this track more suitable to be played at a roller rink.

From The Cradle To The Rave is proof that sometimes taking your time is a good thing.  This release is for all the folk out there that still enjoy the clubs.  Full of electronic goodness that reaches back to the days when techno was all the hype in the 90’s as well as hints at some Kraftwerk.  The album is solid front to back without over doing it.  Where I don’t frequent those types of clubs anymore I still got a kick out of that which is Sh*t Robot.

The Chemical Brothers – Further

Seeing a band like The Chemical Brothers come out with new material makes this guy right here happy.  As a longtime fan of the British duo (Tom Rowlands and Ed Simons), I was thrilled when Further was released and even more intrigued when I heard that alongside the album would be visuals to accompany each of the songs. While I still have yet to obtain the videos I can tell you that they are available on DVD and iTunes for download.

Further is different from previous releases as it is mostly instrumental with Rowlands taking it upon himself to sing on a couple tracks as well as features Stephanie Dosen (Massive Attack) who lends her vocals as well.  I honestly prefer when they collaborate with other musicians on their previous releases but still enjoyed listening to tracks like “Escape Velocity” and “Another World”. “Swoon” was a trip in itself that I could not help but tag along with.

Heavy on the synthesizers and easing back on the drum machines throughout make for a very chill album to listen to.  This is one of those types of albums I can see myself not growing tired of anytime soon.  For those of you out there that still has a soft spot for the duo who hit the charts with “Block Rocking Beats” back in the day don’t hesitate to pick up Further.  The duo still has it and has dropped one great album to dance the night away to or even just sit back and get lost in.

J. Tillman – Singing Ax

Beautiful is just one of the many words that can be used to describe J. Tillman‘s latest release Singing Ax. Not just a member of Fleet Foxes, the folk artist has been very involved in recording material with others as well as himself since around 2004.  His latest offering is a vinyl only release that was recorded by Tillman almost entirely by himself in just three days.  The result is a calm yet captivating collection of songs that couple compliment any campfire gathering or just a quiet afternoon of solitude.

Opening track “Three Sisters” pretty much set the bar up high for the entire album for me.  While listening to TIllman’s singing I could only anticipate on what he was going to sing next and patiently waited the story, backed by acoustic guitar playing and drum machine, to unfold.  “Diamondback” continued with a calm retreat of a pleasant tale that had me closing my eyes and absorbing the intimate song.  In fact I found myself doing that a lot while listening to Singing Ax.  Later on I was treated to the album ending “A Seat At The Table” a song, to me, that almost was a musical rendition of a storm rolling in complete with thundering drumming towards the end of the track.

Tillman dropped an amazing album that barely carried any further supplement aside from his singing and acoustic guitar.  Honestly nothing more was needed as the folk chill release was presented perfectly.  I can only imagine what a live performance would entail.  Luckily for me he is touring with Phosphorescent and is making a stop in Cleveland in just a short couple of weeks.  Fans of Nick Drake and even a younger Neil Young I think will really enjoy this album as well as anyone out there that is just looking for a musical form of relaxation.

Amanda Palmer Performs The Popular Hits Of Radiohead On Her Magical Ukulele

Wait.  What???

Yeah you just read and saw correctly…  Amanda Palmer most known from The Dresden Dolls has released an EP of Radiohead covers done her way with her ukulele.  The EP includes tracks such as “Creep”, “Idioteque”, “FakePlasticTrees”, “No Surprises”, “High and Dry” and a special live string-quartet version of “Exit Music (For a Film)”. Needless to say it is amazing, well at least it is to me.

The EP is now available digitally for a minimum donation of 84 centsYes, $0.84!

Palmer, a very vocal supporter of direct fan-to-artist support, has made the album available online through Bandcamp for a donation of 84¢ or more, 54¢ of which going directly back into Radiohead’s pockets for the legal use of their songs (with the remaining 30¢ going to PayPal to cover the transaction fee).  Of course you can donate more if you wish…

It will also be available available in extremely unique physical permutations starting Tuesday, July 20th at 3pm EST.

Sundowner – We Chase The Waves – CD Review

A sundowner can be a lot of things (a car, drink, plane, type of wind), but in this case the Sundowner I am referring to is an amazing solo project by Chris McCaughan, the guitarist and vocalist of punk act The Lawrence Arms.  

We Chase The Waves is Sundowner’s second album and like the first, it is far from punk rock and more of a brush with folk music that brings forth good moods and instant sing alongs.  Recently dropping on Asian Man Records, We Chase The Waves might just be the album that gets me through the rest of the summer.

Starting as a side project, McCaughan wrote a few songs in his free time and played intimate shows around the Chicago area taking the moniker Sundowner.  With help from fellow band mates and friends the project turned into a band of sorts with Sundowner’s debut being released in the spring of 2007 on Red Scare Records.  Just three years later McCaughan and friends decided for a follow-up and recorded We Chase The Wave in their homes, literally, in just eight months.

Passionate and compelling are the two words that describe McCaughan’s wiring styles on the CD.  The guy is a natural storyteller and just has a way with words. From the moment “In The Flicker” started off the album I was beyond mesmerized.  The song was nothing more than an acoustic jam amongst friends but I was addicted, I wanted more, and before I knew it the ten track album was wrapping up.

Tracks like “As The Crow Flies” impressed the hell out of me even though the song was nothing over the ordinary.  The way the song presented itself to the listener, told the story, and ended it on a positive note not only begged for another listen but might have very well inspired a certain someone typing out this review…

“Baseball’s Sad Lexicon” took words from the 1910 poem of the same title by Franklin Pierce Adams telling the tale of the Cubs succeeding over the Giants thanks to a game winning double play (the only way I ever would have known this was by reading the CD insert and Google).  As an ode to McCaughan’s beloved Chicago Cubs he did a great job rendition of the classic poem.

“Mouth Of A Tiger” was a stern and ever so low opinionated track with lyrics like “I’m as lucky as a funeral” and “I’m not looking at the glass half full”.  I adored the singing style on the song match up with the acoustic and lap steel guitar playing.  Full of everyday truth and plain old honest opinions, the song begged to be played on repeat.

We Chase The Waves was an amazing start to finish album with no lulls in between.  McCaughan nails it dead on with his catchy melodies and fine storytelling that will grow on you regardless if you are a fan of him, The Lawrence Arms, or not.  Don’t look at Sundowner as a side project by a punk rock guy, look at it as a talented musician who has created something that more people need to know about.