Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Album Review: Halestorm- Vicious


I regularly run into a diligent concert photographer who is a steadfast rock loyalist.  After bemoaning the invariably diminished crowd sizes for his favorite form of music, our discussions shift to the general decline in the popularity of mainstream rock.  My go-to line is “where’s the new Guns N’ Roses?”  The next time I see my friend, I’ll be able to tell him that rock’s savior has finally arrived. 

On its fourth album Vicious (July 27 street date), Halestorm shows it’s capable of kicking up fresh dust with the one foot rock has moldering in the grave.  I’ve been on the Halestorm bandwagon for years, but the wholly accessible Vicious is the band’s first release that’s capable of crossing over to fans of classic rock, contemporary country and pop.

“Uncomfortable” is just one of several potential hits on Vicious.  Fashionable bands like Deafheaven and Parquet Courts will get the lion’s share of breathless reviews.  Halestorm is destined to pack arenas.  It’s about time.  Let the commercial revival of rock commence.


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I reviewed a concert by Kenny Chesney, Thomas Rhett, Old Dominion and Brandon Lay at Arrowhead Stadium for The Kansas City Star.

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I reviewed a concert by Henrique Eisenmann and Ehud Ettun at the 1900 Building for Plastic Sax.

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I write weekly music previews for The Kansas City Star.

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Ponty Bone has died.  Without Bone’s essential contributions, I probably wouldn’t have fallen in love with the first few Joe Ely albums.  The accordion player is featured in grainy footage from 1980.  (Tip via BGO.)

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The influential music journalist Roy Carr has died.  (Tip via BGO.)

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Binker and Moses’ electrifying Alive in the East? lives up to the hype.  Maybe London really is the new jazz capital of the world.  That said, I could do without the annoying harp of Tori Handsley.  RIYL: Courtney Pine, trendiness, Shabaka Hutchings.

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Beastmode 2 is fine, but I guess I’ve moved on from the Future/Zaytoven formula.  It doesn’t move me much anymore.

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The Royal Krunk Jazz Orkestra is a new-school big band led by Russell Gunn.  Get It How You Live is worthwhile, but RKJO is clearly an ensemble that’s best experienced live.  RIYL: Snarky Puppy, progress, Dionne Farris.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Metal Deficiency


Something was wrong with me.  I’d become unusually disaffected in recent days.  I was relieved when I happened upon the proper diagnosis of the mysterious ache: I hadn’t attended a metal show in six weeks.

I paid $28 at the door of the Truman to allow the fearsome package tour of Black Dahlia Murder, Whitechapel, Fleshgod Apocalypse, Aversions Crown and Shadow of Intent to relieve me of my metal deficiency.  The extreme dose of bone-rattling blast beats mended my soul.  Getting kicked in the head by crowd-surfers and elbowed in the gut by crazed men in the mosh pit enhanced the healing process.

Fleshgod Apocalypse, a theatrical Italian band with an operatic vocalist and a pianist, amused me.  I felt the musical medicine fully kick in when the group insisted that the audience of about 700 participate in the traditional wall of death ritual.


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I write weekly music previews for The Kansas City Star.

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I reviewed Stephen Martin’s debut album Vision at Plastic Sax.

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Henry Butler has died.  My kids were so enamored with a performance by the Louisiana pianist at an outdoor festival about 15 years ago that they had Butler sign their comic books.

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Richard Swift, an indie-rock Zelig, has died.

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Jazz trombonist Bill Watrous has died.

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Vince Martin of “Cindy, Oh Cindy” fame has died.  (Tip via BGO.)

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The Kansas City rapper Hoggy D collaborates with locally based heavyweights Rich the Factor and Rush Borda on the old-school street rap album Heavy Starch.  Here’s “New Method”.

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Cyrille Aimée's new live album affirms my enthusiasm for her concert at the Folly Theater in February.  Far more than a gypsy jazz revivalist, Aimée and her band get delightfully weird on Thelonious Monk and Michael Jackson covers.

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I’m not going to pretend that I love it, but the ways in which Yuno blends Blink-182, Lil Peep, No Doubt, the Cure and Sade on Moodie is the default sound of 2018.  Here’s “Why For”.

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Philthy’s Party Crashers is a decent funk album.  I wouldn’t ordinarily bother mentioning it, but I came upon the release by the New York ensemble immediately after suffering through two like-minded but vastly inferior efforts by locally based artists.  Here’s the title track.

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The spate of protracted albums is wearing me out.  I'm diligently working my way through all three hours and 15 minutes of William Parker’s stupendous Voices Fall From The Sky.  RIYL: Anthony Davis, art songs, Wadada Leo Smith.

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Gorillaz’s The Now Now strikes me as the sequel to Arctic Monkey’s Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino.  That’s a good thing.  Here’s “Humility”.

(Original image of Aversions Crown at the Truman by There Stands the Glass.)

Thursday, July 05, 2018

Album Review: Drake- Scorpion


Drake’s money-infatuated album Scorpion reminds me of an incident that occurred during the Mexican beach vacation I took last year.  I thought I was living like royalty as I paid $75 per night for a clean room and all the food and booze I cared to consume at a hotel catering to Mexican families. 

Only when I snuck into a nearby resort on a futile quest to obtain an English language newspaper did I realize that I was a relative pauper.  I blew past an initial wave of security guards with the gringo excuse of “no hablo español” and discovered a hidden realm of exceptional luxury.  Dozens of perfectly-toned Europeans wearing swimsuits the size of peso notes lounged around a spectacular water complex that made the centerpiece of my hotel seem like a plastic wading pool.  I was unceremoniously escorted out before my beggarly presence spoiled the luxe setting.

Even though I’m ostensibly welcome to bask in the lavish atmosphere of Scorpion for as long as I like, the recording makes me feel like a shabby outsider crashing a swanky gala.  Drake appears to disdain everyone who hasn’t achieved similar levels of success.  Given that he seems miserable, I have no interest in trading places with the world’s most popular rapper.  He may spend more money in an afternoon than I make in a decade, but Drake seems lonely, bitter and petty on the sadly revealing Scorpion.  That’s “God’s Plan”.


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My five favorite sets at the Middle of the Map festival were by Spoon, Mx.Mrs Btrfly, Jade Jackson, Rick Maun and Becca Mancari.  I reviewed day one and day two of the event for The Kansas City Star.

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I featured Mysterious Clouds, Cubanisms and Logan Richardson in a mid-year music survey on KCUR’s Up To Date.

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I write weekly music previews for The Kansas City Star.

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I parse the disheartening results of a Downbeat poll at Plastic Sax.

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I continue to toil at The Kansas City Jazz Calendar like a sequestered monk copying holy manuscripts.

(Original image of a beach in Mexico by There Stands the Glass.)