CD Reviews – January – 2007

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Leftover Salmon

Years in Your Ears

Yellow Pine Pictures

OOOO out of OOOOO

It’s only been two years since the members of Leftover Salmon threw in the collective towel and decided, very amicably, to go their separate ways. But even though it’s been a short time, this DVD about the band is long overdue.

Years In Your Ears is a great documentary about the band that takes viewers from the band’s earliest beginnings up to their pinnacle. Chock full of hysterical interviews with  Salmon fambly (sic) members and a who’s who of musicians, the DVD tells the tale as long as the story of the salmon returning to its home waters to spawn.

The list of those included on the DVD is too long to mention, but includes everyone from promoter DonStrasburg and Planet Bluegrass’ Craig Ferguson, to the band’s road manager Johnny Pfarr and former manager Michael Slingsby. On the musician side there are up-close interviews with everyone fromJohn Cowan and Sam Bush to the members of Yonder MountainString Band, String Cheese Incident, Shanti Groove, and Larry Keel, among others.

The documentary truly draws back the curtain and lets viewers behind the scenes and on the bus of the band in its early days and shows how seemingly effortlessly the members of Leftover Salmon jibed and jived with the members of the musical community and its fans.

Throughout, little tid-bits are revealed that will make even the most unseasoned Salmon fans seem like experts. It’s revealed how the band’s album Bridges to Bert got its name; how the band itself got its name (on the way to their first gig); the origin of front man Vince Herman’s “FESTIVAL” cry (which, ironically, comes from an old Star Trek episode); and, the documentary of course spends a good deal of time talking about the band’s famed banjo player Mark Vann, who passed away before the group disbanded.

The film also has a somewhat religious overtone to it, in the way that it talks about folks, or in this case freaks, gathering for musical celebrations, and the way that not just Leftover fans but festivarians in general, take the music as seriously as Bible followers take their religion.

While Years InYour Ears does all of this flawlessly, there are a few problems with its mullet-headed fun. The only interviews with actual band members appear in the special features section of the DVD. Adding their commentary alongside the aforementioned laundry list of those interviewed could have certainly added some depth to the overall picture that the film paints.

The other main issue with the film is that for all of the focus on the band’s early days, there was little talk about the post-Vann days of the band, when a young picker named Noam Pikelny came in to fill the shoes left by Vann and blew fans’ minds with his laid-back, but incredibly refined and skilled banjo playing. There is also no mention of the band’s dissolve, and since it happened on what seemed to be such friendly terms, it seems like there certainly should have been some discussion of that, as well as what the members of the band are doing today with their new projects.

But, those points aside, Years In Your Ears is a great tribute to one of Colorado’s most spirited, unlikely and down-right fun success stories.

- Brian F. Johnson

 

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Lecain

Suffocate Me

United Blood & Glory Records

OOOO out of OOOOO

“Suffocate Me” is the debut single from the recently formed LECAIN.

London-based front man  Gérard LeCain spent time with endless garage bands before he eventually decided to work on his own music. After writing most of the songs for his first album at his home in Stockholm, Gérard moved to London, met up with guitarist Yannis Kontos, and sought out a “suitable-sounding” drummer and bassist.

The album, which will be released within the next year, may sound more like California than London, but adds a refreshing twist to its over-played MTV counterparts.       

- Alex Samuel

 

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The Soul of John Black

The Good Girl Blues

Cadabra

OOO out of OOOOO

If a red-wine-buzz could dance, The Soul of John Black would be the music playing. The band’s sultry album The Good Girl Blues features afro beats, smooth percussion and the seasoned soul of John ‘JB’ Bingham. JB has been all over the place: with Miles Davis in Paris, with Nikka Costa, with Bruce Hornsby and, believe it or not, with Eminem. JB extended beyond one-time-stints when he played guitar and keyboards for rock-funk-ska band Fishbone for eight years, contributing everything from production expertise to songs and background vocals.

The Good Girl Blues releases 12 tracks of bluesy bits like “Moanin’” or the Ben Harper-esque vintage infused “Deez Blues.”

- Alex Samuel

 

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The Jimi Austin

East of Liam

Independent

OO1/2 out of OOOOO

Based out of Fort Collins, The Jimi Austin is an eclectic blend of sonically-focused rock and roll.

The foursome’s debut album East of Liam, sounds like sophomoric Pearl Jam mixed with the pop-rock style of MTV’s eyeliner clad bad boys, and that’s all a good thing. The album’s tenth track, “Paradiso,” rings of desperate angst while “Street Corner” distantly reiterates Linkin Park’s better days.

The foursome brags reviews like “one of the best up-and-coming bands in Northern Colorado,” and “the songs are fresh, original and very well crafte
d.” So while others may disagree, it seems safe to assume The Jimi Austin does better live than in the studio.

-       Alex Samuel

 

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Glen Phillips

Mr. Lemons

Umami Music

OOOO out of OOOOO

Glen Phillips’ quiet California voice, known to many fromToad the Wet Sprocket, is back and more personal than ever.

His new album Mr. Lemon was recorded with the goal of capturing the feel of a live performance in the studio. The songs, which were recorded with live lead vocals or were built up from solo vocals, captures the quiet heartbreak of Phillips.

The Santa Barbara-born musician recorded the album in Nashville, Tenn., and will release the record independently “as part of [his]decision to shift from the insanity of the record business to the manageability of a family business.”

The album slowly entrances its listeners with melancholy vocals and simple instrumentals that reflect echoes of Jeff Buckley on a windy day at the beach. 

   Alex Samuel

 

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Blackalicious

4/20 Live inSeattle

BlackMine

OOOOO out of OOOOO

It’s hard to imagine the level of energy that Blackalicious and guests packed into Seattle’s Showbox Theatre.

Rolling 1,200 fans deep, the 14-song set features mesmerizing guest appearances by Lateef, Pigeon John, LifeSavas and Fat Lip of Pharcyde that could never be captured without the high quality (HDV), albeit smoke-filled, visuals.

Blackalicious’ Gift of Gab and Chief Xcel build up the beat with the opening track “Alphabet Aerobics” and work the crowd to explosive levels with complex tracks like “First in Flight.”

When Gift of Gab tells the crowd to “put it up,” even though I’m watching this in a quiet coffee shop, I’m about ready to jump up and do it, and while my muscles tense to do so, the only thing that stops me is disturbing the other people around me, who are at least acting like they’re working.

4/20 Live in Seattle is Blackalicious’ first DVD and the elegantly entwined interview clips and concert stills are as if someone put a hip-hop filter on Scorcese’s or Pennebaker’s lens and somehow captured exactly Gab’s and Xcel’s psyches.

Now, do yourself a favor — put that holiday gift certificate from your aunt to good use and pick up a copy of this DVD.                             

   Alex Samuel

 

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Dan Craig

Wirebird

Independent

OOO out of OOOOO

Denver-native Dan Craig began playing guitar in sixth grade and eventually recorded his debut album after graduating from the University of Pennsylvania. 

After returning to the mountains and spending a year in medical school, the sandpapered sweetness of Craig’s voice blended with melodic blues strumming in his newest album Wirebird.

Each of the album’s 12 tracks would fit perfectly beneath Zach Braff’s banter in any episode of “Scrubs” or on a coffee shop stage.

In fact, Craig finds his way to the stage almost every weekend with his new band the A-Tones or as a member of Denver’s pop collective, Nathan and Stephen.

Although repetitive at times, the innocence of Craig’s songwriting and the seasoned scratch of his voice form a timeless album appropriate for long drives or minor-meltdowns.                             

— Alex Samuel

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