Thursday, June 27, 2013

Emily Mure "Unfettered" (from album Odyssey) First Listen

One part jazzy vocal, one part classical arrangement, one part folk songwriter equate to ALL parts really fantastic music. Emily Mure is a New York based songwriter releasing her sophomore effort “Odyssey” at the end of July. Classically trained musically, but self taught as a songwriter, she is able to appreciate what a lot of musicians are not, and that is a delicate balance (which is strongly displayed in the instrument arrangement and warm, poignant harmonies throughout the record). Emily has something, I am not sure what “it” is, but she has got IT.

The sample track “Unfettered” is my first dive into Emily’s music and I am immediately in love (which is saying a lot because I am very picky about my favorite female musicians). There are just enough moving parts to make the song’s character shine, but it’s not overcrowded. A steady acoustic guitar, a nice flowing rhythm section, and some tasteful, distant guitar lines is all that is really needed to back Mure’s light but soulful airy vocal. And the harmonies lended by songwriter Michaela Anne perfectly complement the chorus with it’s catchy hook and infectious melody.
I meant to say in person, or in a letter / I meant to let you know my hearts for you
Lucky for your Emily will be coming to Boston soon… August 19th at Club Passim w/ Kim Richey (Cambridge, MA).

Check her out online, buy the new record, and support a really great artist.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Had to Share : Brewster Productions

Check out this story about the folks from Brewster Productions.

These guys have done a ton for local music (especially on the South Shore with their Hedge House series and Independent Music Fest). Awesome people doing awesome things for awesome local music. Cheers guys!

Check them out on their own page as well.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Band Double Feature: Part 2 - The Whiskey Farm "From the Still" album review

The Whiskey Farm is reminiscent of Yonder Mountain String Band in the vocals and instrumentation (with the add-on of drums, I suppose). The songs are mostly upbeat and driven by classic instruments like mandolins and acoustic guitars with simple and effective vocal harmonies. Jason Horowitz’s vocal is warm and happy, crisp and clear on the recording. The music is somewhere between folk, bluegrass, and country, dancing a fine line with a healthy balance to keep fans of all music happy.

The opening track “The Boys of Forest Hill” sounds like a traditional bluegrass tune and lucky for us, it definitely bears some resemblance to one as well…but with a bit of a rock n’ roll tinge to it’s being. A story song about Alabama’s sons heading to war, in true 'grass fashion, and plows along with banjo and a clean and hard guitar playing all over the track. This is my vote for standout song on the album and I bet they absolutely kill it live with extended jams and a really nice build up. “She Knows” has a cool trilly guitar line, leading into the full band kick and a fun flirtation of the female and male vocal parts. The line is a little funky, which is cool and gets my head bopping. The difference in the two tracks, strongly display the bands ability to turn on the versatility, yet the songs all make sense to be on the record. A feat not easily attained and a balance that many groups struggle to get to.
I suppose this could be “pop roots rock n’ grass” if I had to put a label on it. It’s fun and approachable, and has hints of rock n’ roll to keep you moving a bit, while still paying tribute to the roots that is was born from. I enjoyed what The Whiskey Farm is laying down and hope to hear more about these folks in the future.
Check them out online:

Jason Isbell "Southeastern" album review

I have always had a great respect for Jason Isbell as a monster guitar player and great songwriter in an alt-country system. His latest solo effort Southeastern shows a man humbled, a songwriter putting it all on the table, and it’s absolutely remarkable. This record is a documentation of a man worn thin by the road he has traveled and where he is heading next, which undoubtedly is up and up.

The album opens up with the somber “Cover Me Up”, a story of a man beat down by his addictions and swearing it off for the last time. Jason’s voice soars above a soft acoustic guitar and slide weeping gently behind it. The song sets the tone for the album as a whole, both contextually and sonically. Isbell’s vocal has never sounded so strong and is a unique and incredible voice that remains unparalleled.

Whether or not the rest of the record is fully autobiographical, it doesn’t matter. Isbell plays and sings with such conviction that the songs take on their own life. The raucous, rocking “Super 8” again hints on a life of addiction and drinking toward a lifetime of drinking. The candid and blatant line “Don’t wanna die in a Super 8 Motel / Just because somebody’s evening didn’t go so well.” opening up the track. In a world where so many folks claim to draw inspiration from their current problems, the singer proves that he can pull the same from reflection and regret. Quite possibly the most prolific and heavy line in the record is from the track “Elephant”.

“If I’d fucked her before she got sick / I’d never hear the end of it
She don’t have the spirit for that now”

Proving the songwriter’s not afraid to write about touchy and emotion driven material. I am blown away by Isbell’s ability to pull a listener into a song and really feel as though they are a part of the story being laid before them.

Variety, depth and harmony all play a concrete roll in the sonic characteristics of the record. The prominent acoustic guitar and Isbell’s voice are the stars here though. Though fiddle, female harmonies (ala Isbell’s wife Amanda Shires), electric guitars, drums and keys all surround the songs and wrap them up nice and full for a dynamic sound throughout the record.

As a closing remark, I can only really say one thing. I am really, really happy that Jason Isbell made this record. It’s a work of beauty, honesty, and talent. The entire record shines from start to finish, there are no filler tracks here, every single one of the 12 tracks is a great song that stands on its own, but also adds a great deal to the collective work. I could honestly write a novel about how great this record is, but I will let you all go get it for yourself and make your own connections.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Sarah Borrello "Exit" album review

Sarah Borrello is a singer-songwriter, a piano player, a guitar player, and a fierce personality and force to be reckoned with on stage. She’s not just a pretty face and a nice voice (like a lot of crap out there these days), but an accomplished songwriter, a legitimate musician, and a KILLER voice. And with playing out all over the North East, performances opening for Amanda Palmer, and this new record…the girl is kind of a big deal. The new record is titled “Exit” and I was lucky enough to get a first listen (or 20) before the official release on June 22 at the Hard Rock Café in downtown Boston…

Holy fu….Sarah Borrello blows me the hell away right out of the barrel. It’s gritty, bluesy, dirty and sexy as hell (2nd time I have felt the need to use the word sexy in the blog, and probably not the last time in this review). Some of her sound has that “sullied, grungy, just can’t turn away” Fiona Apple feel to it, other tunes envoke that straight rock n’ blues sound of Janis Jopin.  No matter what the comparison that you draw from it one thing is for sure: it’s raw, it’s unfiltered and spits emotion right in your face and leaves you begging for some more. All I can say is that this gal is a bad ass and a great songwriter, and I am not quite sure if I should be turned on or scared that she may beat the crap out of me.

Driven by overdriven guitar tones and hard driving vocals (point is, it drives...hard), the majority of the record is pretty rocking. The three first tunes on the record really strike me hard. "Stranglehold" is a ballsy (I can use that to describe a female musician’s music, right?) track with a genuine vocal singing strong and sincere right at you. You can feel the energy and conviction in this song. Great, great stuff in “Gimme, Gimme” with that opening line “oh, mama / the devils back at my door”…ok, you have my attention Ms. Borrello. The influence of 60s rock, soul and hard blues is pretty evident throughout the entire project. But, Borrello shows her musical diversity in the drug induced trance-like “Chemical Burn” and the rollercoaster up and downs of “That Man”.  And then there’s pianos…yup, pianos. The track “Bed of Nails” is a little more Tori Amos than Joan Jett, but it still rocks in its own right and puts Sarah’s varied talents for the art in full view. Every record needs its ballad and “Bed of Nails” fits the bill rather perfectly.
I get nervous each and every time that Sarah goes for one of “those notes”…a singer of a different caliber couldn’t pull it off, but she is flawless each and every time, nailing the note and giving it her signature voicing. There is a deep growl to some of her annunciations (again, it's sexy) and she sings with a soul and feeling that make you truly listen to what the girl has to say.

The record ends with a percussion and vocal driven track ala the swampy delta and has a nice little outtake track of Sarah saying “he drooled on himself”. Guess she has a lighter, joking side as well and for that I am thankful.
All in all, a real solid and rockin’ collection of tunes here and a musician that the world should be paying very close attention to in the upcoming year.
Check out Sarah’s CD release for “Exit” THIS Saturday (June 22) at the Hard Rock Café in Boston (in Faneuil Hall) and online for info, buying the new CD and show dates at:

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

BAND DOUBLE FEATURE: Part 1 - Interview with 'The Whiskey Farm' members Jason and Brett

BAND DOUBLE FEATURE: Part 1 - The Interview
Today’s Feature is a two part. For the first entry, I caught up (digitally) with Jason Horowitz  (guitar, vocals, harmonica, mandolin, keys) and Brett Wilfrid (guitars, mandolin, vocals, banjo) of the Americana outfit ‘The Whiskey Farm’ out of Madison, WI. Bordering on folk roots and bluegrass, the record (to be reviewed in tomorrow’s second part of the double feature) is definitely an example of how music of this style can be fused in a way that it is not definitely one style or the other. With so much bland and uninspiringly flat music in the genre I hear now and again , these guys are a especially welcome listen and addition to the Red Line.

1)      What projects are you currently working on?
 JH: Right now, we are doing a lot of new writing.  Putting out a record requires a real attention to detail on a small set of songs, and now that the new one is out, we are excited about writing a bunch of new things and exploring new musical avenues without getting tied down on the details.  We're also doing more collaborative writing, which is a really fun and challenging process.

BW: Our efforts are varied, representing our different musical backgrounds and interests.  We have everything from individual songwriting to group experimentation, from children's music to jam-based rock.  In order to accommodate these variations, we have a rotational practice schedule in which each band-mate is in charge of what we do for the night.  The most likely next product, though, is probably going to feature more group-songwriting, a less-structured process and product, but keeping true to our sound and overall feeling.

2)      Why is your music scene the best music scene? (if you don’t think it is, what do you love about the scene in your city/what do you think is missing?)
BW: What artists usually look for in a music scene are loyal fans and good pay.  On the first, our music fits well with Madison; lots of happy tunes, pleasant messages, progressive politics.  Regarding pay, we remain solidly in the 99%.

JH: I think one of the great things about Madison, especially in the summer, is the outdoor music scene.  We played a music festival in a beautiful park on the shores of Lake Monona last weekend, and this week we'll be on the Memorial Union Terrace, which is an awesome outdoor musical space. 

 (Jason Horowitz)

3)      Favorite OR least favorite/most embarrassing moment on stage from your career?
BW:  Any one of my lousy on stage jokes that exist somewhere between "terrible joke" and "very likely to be offensive."

JH: I can remember a gig when I first started playing out, right after college, in a Borders book store, and when it was time for me to start playing, there was absolutely no one there.  I mean, zero.  That was not a great moment.  So I played for myself until finally some people felt bad for me and came over and sat down.  Luckily, things have gotten better.

4)      If you could collaborate with anyone musically, who would it be?
JH: For me, Bob Dylan.  I just want to be in the room with him and see how all those lyrics come out.  And maybe catch a few of his discards.

BW:  I think we'd each have a different answer to that.  Perhaps more important to us is just finding time - good, quality, uninterrupted time - to explore what we already bring to the team.  We all work full time, and most of us have young children.  We might like to collaborate with each other most ... just more!

5)      3 records that shaped you when you first started playing and 3 records that best represent who you are now/are listening to now?
JH: I was influenced as a songwriter initially by the New England folk scene, including people like Ellis Paul, Martin Sexton, and Vance Gilbert.  These days we seem to (maybe unintentionally) channel bands like the Lumineers and The Head and the Heart.

6)      Why is creating music important to you?
BW:  It's transcendent artistic expression - bottom line, when we're all gone, we will have recordings of melodies and memories from a group of good people who enjoyed making music with each other and hopefully contributed in some way to the overall benefit of the world we live in.

JH:  I love the social and communicative aspects of it, on two levels.  The creation of music is a wonderful thing to experience with people you care about, and then the sharing of music with an audience helps us connect with people in a powerful way.  Plus, it's a great way to get all your friends in the same bar at the same time.

 (Brett Wilfrid)

7)      Do you have any "guilty pleasure" music? Something the world may be surprised to hear you listen to?
JH: Latin pop music, especially Juanes. 

BW: I've been trying to get the band to play "Does Your Mother Know" by ABBA.

8)      Aside from music, do you have any other pastimes? What would you want people to know about you aside from your musical endeavors?

BW: We're into aquaponics, stem-cells, beekeeping, psychology, soccer, and whiskey.

9)      Anything else you want to plug or we should know?
JH: The songs on this new album are about things we care about.  Many are about our home state and the people in it.  We hope that they connect with people, and we'd love to hear from you if they do.  Thanks for listening.

Check them out and get ready for the review of “From the Still” tomorrow!

Monday, June 10, 2013

First Listen: The Reneaus “Fool”

Lively. Right out of the gate I get an intial “WOAH!” from the first note in the song. Ashley Winn’s voice has jazzy inflections on the ending words in each phrase, but still maintains a youthful punch to it. The tremolo of the guitar adds a nice touch, with subtle hints of string sections throughout the track spreading a soft yet full, backing to the song. The addition of the nice organ/piano playing really makes me giddy, a line so simple that can add such intensity to a song. There is a real retro and warm feel to the tune. Inferences of the jazz influence (in Winn’s vocal) are present, but there is also a bit of rock n’ roll and country in the guitar playing…however, the arrangement is much more complex than your traditional rock or country song. Overall, it’s an exciting track full of nuances and interesting variations. My first listen of The Reneaus certainly will not be my last listen.

After listening to the track, I read that these guys recorded the album on 2 inch tape at Sidekick Sound Studios in Nashville TN. Now if I didn’t have respect for these guys before reading this (which I did, they have a really cool vintage sound as it is), I certainly do now. Way to keep it analog and real guys, way to do it right! I guess that’s where that “warm” feeling came from.
Check them out online:

Thursday, June 6, 2013

First Listen: Too Slim and the Taildraggers "Blue Heart"

“Blue Heart” is the title track off of Too Slim and the Taildragger’s new record. Jimmy Hall’s voice and harp blowing is smooth and smoky in the same breathe. The blues is not a style of music, it’s an emotion, and these guys have that sentiment in their back pocket.

The equation in this track is all right, the tremolo guitar, overdriven vocal, and that organ sound through a Leslie-drive rhythm guitar…hell yes, that Leslie sound! I dare you to listen to this and not at the very least snap your fingers along, never mind break into a full blown blues seizure. This is the kind of thing I think of when I think Chicago blues joint. It has a nice amount of grit and dirt on the track, but still maintains that velvety smooth blues feel.
Let’s all nod our heads, sip our 2 fingers of bourbon in the smoky bar of life and tip our hats to this band. Good to see the blues is still alive and well.

Franky Silence and Ghost Orchestra "Fallen" EP Review

The Queens of the Stone Age hit when I was in my late teens/early 20s. I was a mild fan of the guys (and have since came to the realization that Josh Homme is a badass dude and real cool guy –see his episode of No Reservations with Anthony Bourdain). Franky Silence and Ghost Orchestra have a version of “No One Knows” on this EP, but this adaptation of that tune is NOT the Queens version, this is brilliance.

The EP is a little haunting and atmospheric. I love when you can close your eyes and a song really just brings you some place and a whole scene plays out behind your eyelids. The delicate waltz, almost spoken jazz tone to the vocal, and wind instruments are phenomenally fused to create one harmonious sound. Very big stage show, Vaudeville act feel to the music, but still modern at the same time. Sabrina Troxler has a timeless voice of beauty and depth with simple and sexy elegance. And the music behind her is fantastic. It’s very unique and I am not hearing much like this out there these days.
Of the 4 tracks, I am hard pressed to find a favorite. They have a very cohesive sound, but at the same time the soundscape is vibrant and energetic. I will have to go with their version of “No One Knows” because it’s just such a great reworking of a song that is familiar. That banjo line ever so faint in the background, the persistent percussion parts, carefully picked guitar and vocals all swirling together, just perfection. Very few music makes me extremely excited, but this has me out of my head and loving it.
Keep an eye out for these folks, they are a real gem and a prize to find.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Bob Bradshaw "Home" Album Review

Bob Bradshaw is a songwriter who has been around the block…and that block just so happens to be about the size of this green earth we inhabit. A man who has been around and seen some things, but lucky for us, now makes his home in Boston. “Home” also happens to be the title of his new record.

Bradshaw’s voice is the first thing that really strikes me. It just floats above the rest of the music. It’s clear, crisp and strong. As far as comparisons, I am hearing similarities to the Nashville songwriter/composer I have had the pleasure of seeing a few times named Keegan Dewitt, singer Luke Reynolds of the now defunct “Blue Merle” and a bit of Randy Newman (if Newman was a bit slicker). Something in the annunciation of the phrases, I suppose. It never ceases to amaze me how someone from Ireland or Britain can sing and the accent isn’t quite noticeable. Though there is certainly something 'Emerald Isle' about Bradshaw’s sound. The remaining sound quality of the music has a bit of a country feel with the twanginess of the guitar throughout (lent by Boston guitar great Duke Levine), and weeping slide and accordion parts, but this is by no means “country music”.
Listening further I am happy to hear a familiar voice, that of Annie Lynch (recently reviewed), on a few of the tracks. Their voices meld unassumingly and so naturally that I almost feel it’s not fair to the rest of us that these two met up. Beautiful vocal work here. This is displayed in two of the stand out tracks on the record “High Water Rising” and the title track itself. “High Water” is a country ballad with a merry feel and a nice groove to it. The guitar lines are tight, Bradshaw’s vocal is flawless, and the harmonies ring solid and warm. “Home” starts out slow and easy, the singer’s voice throaty and gruff with sweeping “oooo’s” and steel parts sailing ghostly in the background. The drum beats out a steady march as the singer tells the story of traveling the road and just wanting to get back to familiarity and comfort. Something we can all relate to, I am sure.
The music is generally a rather pleasant listen. The complete album is pretty stable in it’s sonic dynamics, but the songs are different enough to keep my attention for the duration of the listen. It has a very relaxed feel, which I am into and certain nuances in the music make me perk up every now and again.  In a city of Americana songwriters, there is something about Bob Bradshaw that stands out, and for that I am thankful.

Eva Walsh “Lost in my Mind” (cover) : video review

As if being a singer-songwriter extraordinaire, ukulele aficionado, and fiddlin’ queen was not enough, Miss Eva Walsh has gone and added banjo to the list of instruments she will just pick up rock out on.

A really, really cool concept for shooting a video at home. Play all the parts yourself, tape the whole thing, and parse it together as it makes sense. Eva, hanging out on her comfy couch, strumming her old banjo and singing her heart out on her rendition of Head and the Heart’s “Lost in my Mind” and being backed by a band made up of herself on fiddle, and background vocals.
Girl has got some soul and fire in her voice, we will just ignore the fact that she is an immensely talented violin player for the time being. She is reminiscent of jazz singers of the past but she still has a modern day pop mindset that appeals to a large market of listeners (smart girl). Something I am sure she hears all too often is “you remind me of Ingrid Michaelson”, but then again, that’s really not a bad thing to hear. With a genuine appreciation for all types of music from classical, to soul, to bluegrass it is apparent that her repertoire is all over the map and her talents show no sign of being confined to any one style (classically trained violin player covering indie-folk…there you go). She has taken this song and made it her own.

Thanks for letting us in, Eva! Very cool idea…keep ‘em coming our way. And all your folks should head the general way of Eva’s website, get her last record and check her out live sooner than later…she is one of the few artists I feel confident saying you may get that “damn, I should have saw her when she wasn’t famous” feeling from in a few years.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

First Listen: Justin Farren "Mostly In My Mind"

Justin Farren is a singer-songwriter from Sacramento, CA and the first victim of my ReviewShine membership as a blog. The single from his record in the queue was the upbeat, folky track “Mostly in my mind”…Boston locals will appreciate the similarities to area favorite Ryan Montbleau.

Damn, the finger style playing on this is…just DAMN. This dude can play. It’s intricate, but lively and robust at the same time. His vocal has a real cheerful tone to it, this is festival dance music. Sunshine and cold beer dancing out on the lawn and just watching this guy have a ball on stage playing for the masses. That’s the vibe I am really getting from this songwriter. If that wasn’t enough, the song kicks in with some real sweet country guitar ripping through after the second verse and the band kicks in strong and clean. Really great feel and mood to the track.
If that isn’t enough Farren also happens to be a witty and sharp songwriter as well. With great phrasing and lyrical content.
and in spite of each revision that you make
the story plays the way the story plays

Be sure to check Justin Farren out online (or if you are on the west coast, get out and see him live. I can only imagine his live shows are quite an experience).

Chris Lavancher “Roadside Attractions” album review

Chris Lavancher is a North Reading, MA based songwriter. A story teller and singer, who develops the characters in his songs with precision and expertise. His record “Roadside Attractions” was released just about a year ago and he sent it along for a listen…

The majority of the record is studded with intricate picking and Lavancher’s soothing, friendly vocal work. There are carefully placed other instrument/vocal parts, but it’s not at all overdone. I have to give applause to the producer (and Chris) on that front. The recording has just enough moving parts to make in interesting for a recorded work, but not so for off from what you may get a solo acoustic show. Kudos on that front. There are some excellent fiddle (“Bury Me”) parts and slide guitar (particularly in “Lone Train Whistle”)…and some nice accompanying mandolin as well. Although, this method does wear after a few tunes about halfway through the record the tracks begin to add a few additional parts as in “Eli’s Song” with its light root bass thump, fiddle, percussion and lovely female harmony part.
It has some bluesy feel to it in the first couple tracks, but without as much grit as most of the genre, making it real unique as well as hints of bluegrass (in the instrument choices) on the more folky end of the spectrum. It’s a really just a pleasant listen, with the songwriter’s smooth voice at the forefront of some really well thought out instrument parts, played with professional precision.
The writing is playful and sprightly. Lavancher doesn’t seem to take himself all too seriously in his writing, well not too personally I guess is the better way to describe it. I don’t get the feeling that too much is autobiographical and he dreams up these profound characters in a lot of his songs. “I Can See You” departs from that and is a bit more of a poignant song of lost love and heartache. It’s a nice change up and shows the artists adaptability as a songwriter and performer.
A really nice listen.
Check out Chris’s record “Roadside Attractions” online at:

Monday, June 3, 2013

Good News...

Hey there friends,

I have some good news today. I have been officially brought into the Review Shine family as one of their featured blogs. Review Shine is a service that connects musicians to bloggers, and bloggers to musicians. It's a quick and easy database essentially that allows you to submit your release to 60+ well known music blogs for listen and review in a matter of minutes rather than hours upon hours. The service tracks who has listened to your music, downloads it and when they review it. As a recording musician, even with contact lists from working in promotion, I have spent countless hours researching sites that would potentially review me, digging up multiple contact names/e-mails, and then following up when I didn't get a response. I've also spent a good deal of time wondering if the magazine or blog received my email, CD, submission, etc. and if they were going to post. This service essentially takes the guess work of that out and gives you everything nice and you know who is listening and when they are. It's really great!

So what does that mean for Red Line Roots? I will be able to reach a wider variety of musicians who are truly serious about getting themselves heard and for that I am excited. It also, in turn, will hopefully get the blog a bit more web traffic and legitimacy in the music scene. Now, you can still Facebook message me, or email me if you want something reviewed, but this is just another avenue to get new music my way...and to a bunch of other great blogs out there as well!

Check them out online and if you have a big release coming up, definitely consider using their services. Its a great (and simple) way to make a big footprint in the media world without spending too much time and effort.