Thursday, July 15, 2010

July 2010 CD Reviews

D.C. Bloom
Cinco De Star O EP

This Texas-based singer-songwriter is a gem. I’ve known of him since his time in the Ohio-based band The Dog Waggers, and ever since DC Bloom moved to the area a few years ago I’ve gotten to know him. He’s even written for INsite. He’s got a bent view on life and a way with words both unconventional and entertaining (which is why he interviewed Kathy Griffin for INsite). His one-liner updates on Facebook are enough to keep you in stitches, and his songs are both a hoot and make you think. With his second solo release, the EP Cinco de Star-oh! He serves up five tracks of tongue-in-cheek Americana music.

The album begins with the been-there-done-that song about being downsized “I Used To Live In Comfort in Comfort.” It then kicks into a Elizabeth Wills duet “Luby’s Sweet Tease” about an interesting flirtation exchange between a plumber and a waitress. In “Crew Cabbin’ Fever” Bloom mentioned just about every type of truck in the world.

Of course, a Texas-based country CD wouldn’t be complete without a nod to the women of the Lone Star State. In “A Texas Woman Like You” he covers that, while taking you on a little tour of the US. “California’s got the starlets, it’s Hollywood and Vine / Take a drive along the coast, stop at vineyards, drink the wine / It’s silicon and silicone in valleys, yes, it’s true / But I prefer those natural Texas women, with Lone Star flag tattoos”

Most of the CD is comical, but the last track, a lost-love track entitled “Abilene Blues,” gets serious. It’s a live offering that comes off good but not polished.

In fact, none of these songs are perfectly polished, but it’s a nice taste of what DC Bloom offers. Some good-ol humor-infused Americana country music. It reminds me of the stuff that I’ve heard from Al Barlow (“Peanut Butter Jar”) and some of Terri Hendrix’s early tracks (“Dana Blues”). You should do youself a favor and take a listen to Bloom sometime. Check him out online at – Sean Claes

Screamworks: Love in Theory and Practice


The title to HIM’s newest release pretty much sums up its basis. Screamworks: Love in Theory and Practice. Enough said. BUT, since this is a music review, why not delve in a little deeper. Practice is one thing these Finnish rockers do not have to worry about. As with their previous six releases, Screamworks: Love in Theory and Practice is just as solid. It is a great ensemble of HIM’s collective sounds. This seventh studio release is not the deep dark seeded monster that Venus Doom was, and not bubblegum pop rock for the girlies at the mall either. It is more of a balanced combination of HIM’s frolicking through different rock genres. This offering is melodic rock driven, blending more use of electric keyboards and synths with elements of 80s retro rock. It is also very catchy and musically upbeat (under dark vocals), but not mainstream. If anything, Screamworks provides a fresh energy to the group’s music repertoire.

Part of this “fresh energy” may be illuminating from frontman Ville Valo, having written this album being sober, and providing some of his greatest lyrics to date. And for vocals, Valo is spot on; nailing it! Add the grandiose guitar work of Mikko “Linde” Lindstrom for another interesting angle. Linde is no slouch fretwork for sure, and once again provides a solid and soulful performance. Guitar shredding is fun, but limited in emotional and audio capacity; thankfully Linde does not indulge in such acts, but instead delivers life giving energy and touching melodies to Valo’s heartfelt lyrics.

Another refreshing change is the subject material of the songs. The previous releases were usual dark toned landscape for tragic tales of love and death. With Screamworks and to keep up with “change”, it does not stop with the music. The lyrics and subject matter have also advanced forward in the band’s maturity. The “Love” element still remains, but gone is the “Death”. This time around the idea is of love and suffering; heartbreak, but going forward with life after lessons learned. It is like a breakup and the feeling that follows it. The songs Heartkiller, Dying Song, Love the Hardest Way and In the Arms of Rain display HIM’s updated lyrical content and musical diversity united as one. The CD as a whole shows the band’s maturity in song and in life together; this really elevates the emotional level to new heights.

That height would be where life and love are gifts, and it finally is recognized. – Kenneth Deville

The Banner Year
What You Won’t Get

Rock Army Records

“I need a new direction / I need to find which way to go” is how What You Won’t Get, the third offering from Austin’s The Banner Year begins. But I’d have to say, they’ve not gone a new direction on this offering. They’ve stayed the same course they’ve been on since their inception in 2004. It’s just gotten better with time.

These guys have been one of my favorite bands coming out of Austin for the last few years. They’ve got that sound that is kind of a Green Day thing. Brilliant lyrics and music that is too rock to be punk and too punk to be rock. Plus, a vocalist who has a unique and quality voice.

What You Won’t Get offers up Jason Small’s jaded view on life in 14-tracks. Songs about losing love, leaving, about truing to find direction in life, and songs exploring his inability or lack of desire to care. The clincher is, this isn’t full of simplistic lyrics over predictable music.

“Godsend” is a ballad that turns angry. “Where’s the Donut Palace” is one of my favorite new tracks to hear live and they capture is well for this album. “Instrumental” has audio from a November 1998 X-Files episode. It leads nicely into the not-ready-to-settle-down track “Misfire.” The epic track “The Barrier” could be a shoe-in for radio play… if radio stations were tipped off to it.

My favorite track on What You Won’t Get is “Phase 3.” I think this could be the calling card of the band as well. It’s kind of a 3-part song that begins slow… speeds up… and then gets heavy. It’s the type of track that gets stuck in your head… in a good way. “Living it up in the same old guise / and we’re letting our lives just pass us by / we’ll have a beer and sleep away the winter.”

“At A Loss” completes the album on a high note with all the screaming and energy that encompasses the band.

The Banner Year released What You Won’t Get in April at an INsite Night at Red Eyed Fly. You can purchase the album online ( or at a show. They are one of the few local bands that are bent on making sure their performance on stage is as good as the music they produce. I’d highly recommend catching them live. To check where to see them live visit

The Banner Year includes Small (vocals), Josh Smith (Bass), Facundo LaRocca – (Drums), Michael Murray (Guitar), and Charlie Fisher (Guitar). - SC

Righteous Brisket
Butcher’s Brew

Big Beard Records

If you prefer your beer from a can, your music southern-fried, and your Skynyrd and ZZ Top cranked up to eleven, you’re going to enjoy Righteous Brisket’s debut release Butcher’s Brew.

The album kicks off with the pop-top of a beer opening… and then goes into the mullet-and-Skoal anthem “Redneck SOB” which showcases lead singer Aaron Seymour’s imperfect-but-fitting outlaw country voice.

The ablum continues though 40 minutes of southern rock spanning 10 tracks. There’s the yeah-she’s-basically-a-bitch-but –I-love-her song “Christine.” Bassist John Duer takes the lead vocal duties on the road-warrior track, “White Lines,” that scores big points by mentioning my hometown of Laredo. “Tennessee Wiskey” is a rock driven blues track that would get Billy Gibbons to smile approvingly. If you’ve ever been in that position where you’re not sure if the relationship is over or not, “It’s 3a.m.” will speak to you.

Other than “Redneck SOB” my favorite track on Butcher’s Brew has got to be “Rusty and Bent.” It’s one of those songs about embracing the negatives and hoping love will still prevail. “Maybe she’ll see, I’m not the best she’s had / I’m not so bad / need a chance / to prove to her / that I can be / better than / the worst man she knows.”

A bonus on the album is the closer. Their cover of Cheap Trick’s “Surrender” that is pretty darn awesome.

These four guys aren’t looking to make it big, they all seem pretty happy with their lives. They’ve all run the gamut of bands throughout their career thus far from The Men From Nantucket to Nooner to Shelli Coe to bySaturday. They’ve pretty much settled down but when there’s an itch it needs to be scratched.

And singer/guitarist Aaron Seymour, bassist John Duer, lead guitarist Waco Jake Spelman, and drummer Tim Brown chose to scratch that itch by jamming together which led to the formation of Righteous Brisket (named after Seymour’s claim to make amazing brisket… and I only say “claim” because he’s not invited ME to a BBQ) and that led to the recording of Butcher’s Brew.

Check them out online at their Myspace ( page or their Facebook ( page. – SC

Terri Hendrix
Cry Till You Laugh

Wilory Records

Since 1996 Terri Hendrix has been releasing independent music via her own label Wilory Records. I’ve been a fan about that long as well. She’s got a way to get you to lose yourself in her music, smile, reflect, and feel good. A few times a year my wife and I try catch one of her shows to recharge our batteries and rediscover our love for music and fellow man. That may be stretching it a bit but it’s pretty close to the truth. So, when Hendrix’s new album, Cry Till You Laugh (CTYL) hit my hands, I was understandably excited.

Those who have been “lifers” to Terri’s sound are going to be very pleased with this recording (which will be released June 22, 2010). It showcases both where she’s been and where she is currently in her musical career. Hendrix is a folk singer with a jazz influence who writes and records on her own terms.

The music on CTYL is stellar, with a great mixture of horns, mandolin, piano, and strings. Joining the core band of Hendrix, Lloyd Maines (who also produced this release), and Glenn Fukunaga are an impressive gang of guest players that include Stanley Smith, Drew Womack, Richard Bowden, John Mills, Riley Osbourn, Mark Gonzalez, and John Silva Pat Manske, and others. It’s the most “full” I’ve ever heard a Terri Hendrix album, and the music elevates the lyrics.

The album kicks off with the harmonica-driven “Wail Theory” where she combines two poems by Dorothy Parker into a stunning two-minute ditty. Her stop-and-smell-the-roses track “Slow Down” follows. An uppity blues track called “Hand Me Down Blues” is a great edition. As is the wonderful word-play of “Berlin Wall.” The harmony vocals of Womack are fantastic on the road-warrior track “Roll On.”

A restructured version of “Take Me Places,” an Ike Eichenberg cover, is an early live staple that originally appeared on her 1999 release Terri Hendrix Live. It really gives you a taste of the past, while another Eichenberg song “You Belong In New Orleans” is a fantastic jazzy new edition to her repertoire.

The best thing about being an independent musician is you don’t have to have a “single” for radio, but if I had to choose one, the beautiful ballad “1000 Times” would be my pick. “If you could see inside my soul / you’d find your name in stone. The world may take you far away / but you are not alone.”

But, as far as favorites on the album, I’ve got to say “Hula Mary” does it for me. It’s reminiscent of Places In Between’s “Goodtime Van.” It’s the track about Celebrating and embracing those who make life interesting. It also encompasses the fun and original lyrics that make Hendrix’s music such a treat album after album. “Hula Mary / She got nothin’ to hide / She’s tie-dyed on the inside.” Plus, Hula Mary is a real person. Check this out. -

While I didn’t get a chance to see it yet, Hendrix has also created a memoir/book to accompany the album. It’s a gathering of essays about the business of music, her plights with health issues, family, stories of being on the road and ultimately about finding a purpose in life. I’m guessing the book will be as uplifting as her catalog of music.

Terri Hendrix’s recordings are among the most cherished in my personal collection, and this one is a wonderful addition. And I’ve got to say, some of her older albums I wasn’t thrilled with upon first listen, but they grew on me and became favorites. This one was instantly great to me. Pick it up, you’ll agree.

Learn more about Terri Hendrix at - SC

Allison Thrash

Head On Records

What’s in a name? When I first got this album in my hands I thought, what an interesting stage name for a metal/punk singer. Well, I was wrong on every level with that assumption. Allison Thrash is her ACTUAL name, and her brand of music is decidedly blues-driven. With her November 2009 release Solitude, Thrash and company serve up just under an hour of guitar-and-whiskey-soaked hardcore blues.

What sets this album apart from others is the wonderfully unique voice of Thrash herself. It’s akin to some of the big-voiced blues women like Big Mama Thornton, Lavelle White and Nina Samone. If I had to place it alongside some Austin-based singers I’d have to say her voice has the power displayed by folks like Carolyn Wonderland and Shelley King. Thrash’s voice is raw, feminine (without being girly), and powerful.

The album kicks off with the age-old blues line “My man says he loves me” in the classic crawling blues track “Thrash and Moan.”

But she’s not the sit-there-and-take-it kind of songwriter. In fact, the track where the title of the CD came from “Gimme Some Solitude” begins by asking her man to leave her alone (“Gimme some solitude, baby / Tonight don’t come home”).

She invites you to come to the party in “Open House” and wants to know “Do You Come With A Drink?” She takes a call from the devil himself in “Fight Dirty” and recounts some interesting life choices in “Rubies of Foolishness.”

The ballad “Mother” is a really heartfelt and beautiful tribute to Patricia Francis Thrash, who passed away in April 2010 after a long Alzheimer’s-type illness called Lowy Body Dementia. “Mother, I put some of your roses in my yard / I look at them and things are a little less hard / I still wear your sweater when it gets cold / I still look at your picture when I'm losing my hold.”

The album concludes with another somber take-me-Home track, “Lord, I’m Ready.”

Allison Thrash’s band is made up of Thrash (vocals), David Love (guitar), Jes Sproat (bass), and Jason Hurt (drums).

If you’re a fan of the blues, Solitude is for you. Check out for more information. – SC

The Standouts
The Standouts

The Standouts come out of San Marcos/Austin with a sound that I have heard few attempt. Their sound is a combination Roy Orbison-meets-Jellyfish-meets-Jason Mraz. It forms a southern rock with a twist of 70s doo-wop groove and it comes together really good and on their debut self-titled six-song EP.

The fun “Let Love Lead” kicks things off and gets your toes tapping straight away. “Your Love Carries Me” gives a modern twist to a Grease-esque love song. The feel good jam “Good Thing Goin’ On” follows. Then, if you’ve ever taken a “hindsight is 20/20” trip into a past relationship, “Rewrite” will speak to you.

Coming off like a heartfelt gospel tune, “I Will Be There” is probably my favorite on the release. It’s got a sweet sax solo to lend to the vibe too. “I will be there / whenever you call me. I will be there / whenever you need. Yes, I will be.”

The album ends nicely with the funky lyrical head trip of “What It Does To You.”

The last local band that I heard that had this kind of groove was This Life Electric who kind of disappeared from my radar sometime in 2008. Let’s hope The Standouts don’t disappear because based off this EP, it sounds like they’ve got a good thing going.

The band is made up of Andrew Howard (vocals/guitar), Junior Scott (vocals/bass), Johnny Ballistic (drums), Philip Prasek (vocals/guitar), Noel "Doc" Vickers (saxophone), David "Rudeboy" Bowman (trombone)

They’re playing July 6 and 20th at Cedar Street Courtyard. If you’d like to learn more about them, visit their MySpace page -

Dave Madden
Open Eyed / Broken Wide

When many bands are quickly releasing EPs and getting their mp3s on iTunes in order to get ahead of the music curve and to satisfy the need-it-now demands of fans, Dave Madden has done something both amazing and amazingly impressive. He’s assembled a cast of phenomenal Austin musicians (Will Taylor, Suzanna Choffel, Wendy Colonna, and John Pointer to name a few) and released a double album – 24 individual tracks (18 songs with 6 alternate-version tracks).

That alone is pretty impressive. As they say… “wait.. there’s more.” He’s abandoned the physical compact disc and instead released a beautiful lyric book with an access code to get to the albums in digital format, giving you access to a higher quality than has been offered in the past, the 96k audio (Madden explains it’s better than 2x CD quality and 35x mp3 quality).

It’s a statement, for sure. And a bold one. But, all is for naught if the music suffers or is not fully realized. Well, it took me about 3 weeks of listening to Open Eyed / Broken Wide to feel like I could write about it. Not for any other reason than, it’s packed full of really, really good music and some of the most heartfelt and genius lyrics I’ve heard in a long time.

This collection gave me the same feeling I got the first time I listened to Guy Forsyth’s Love Songs: For and Against, Ruthie Foster’s Runaway Soul, or Edwin McCain’s Honor Among Thieves. That is to say… it’s really good.

The album is a journey. It’s about life, it’s about love, about finding your way in this world’s sea of confusion. Madden marries his music and words with other things that have inspired him. He uses an Ariele Danea triptych poem across three songs. He quotes the likes of T.S. Eliot and Alan Ginsberg and draws inspiration from diverse folks like Leonard Cohen and a WWII retailing analyst by the name of Victor LeBow.

The music on Open Eyed / Broken Wide is really not genre specific enough for me to label it. It’s piano ballads (“A Beautiful Night,” “Someday,” “This is Love”), alternative rock (“Dirty Feet” [on Open Eyed], “Music is a Whore”), acoustic guitar (“Dirty Feet” [on Broken Wide], “Broken Wide”), adult contemporary (“Aware,” “Probably Why”), and gospel (“Believe,” “The New New Testament”).

Several of the songs on Open Eyed have alternate versions on Broken Wide (which was recorded live in Austin at the KUT 90.5 Studio). It’s a really interesting thing to get the same song in two musical versions. “When You Say No” is a stunning full production on Open Eyed and a beautiful stripped down guitar ballad on Broken Wide. Similarly the epic “This Is Love” from Open Eyed becomes a single instrument (piano) ballad on Broken Wide. I’d venture to say the songs on Broken Wide are more in tune to the creation process when writing and the Open Eyed versions are what can be done when adding amazing instrumentation.

The common denominator to these songs is the lyrics. Madden knows how to string words together to make a compelling and meaningful song no matter the musical genre.

“Tomorrow Today” is probably my favorite track on the album. It is most outright rock-anthem as well… complete with an AC/DC “Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap” type break down. “It’s the next big thing didn’t you hear? It’s not new unless it comes from next year.”

Open Eyes / Broken Wide is full of great lyrics. I feel the review wouldn’t be complete without listing a few.

- She laughs / The fun is never over / and never fully sober / and everything’s a blur. – “Open Eyed / Broken Wide”

- I feed on the fire my feet on the wire / Try as you might to follow the light / you can’t get it right. Believe. - “Believe”

- I could freak out and lose my cool / and put you next to 9/11 and heaven on a pedestal / freak out and make it into a fight / and send you sneaky ninja messages into the night. – “Probably Why”

- Yeah… well no one’s perfect… but imperfection has never looked so good. – “A Beautiful Night”

- And everybody’s water is a different shade of blue / and we all take pride in some kind of food / and everyone’s a Me, but mostly / everyone’s a You. – “Drive Across America”

I’m not sure if this should be billed as a double album, two single albums, or a studio album with a live record. For $20 you get 24 really good songs. If you strip away all of the interesting side stories and format issues and just concentrate on the music itself... it’s still one of the most impressive albums I’ve heard in the last few years.

For more information about Dave Madden or to buy Open Eyed / Broken Wide, visit his homepage at - SC

2x Broken

Nonprofit Boozer

Fresh from a trip to the Wakarusa Festival in Ozark, Arkansas, the guys in Indofin are gearing up for the release of their second full-length studio release 2x Broken. If you are a fan of the dirty-reggae-punk sound that Sublime’s live shows were chock full of, you’ll be a fan of this Austin three-piece.

The 12 tracks that make up this record combined come in at just over 30 minutes of what I would term as throwback reggae-punk music. Leading off with the distortion-driven “Honey,” the album’s sound is established early. The crawling reggae sound continues on such tracks as “Whatever,” “Nonprofit,” and “Riverside.” And songs like “Blue Light,” “Princess,” and “Missing Me” operate at a nice reggae-jam speed.

The vocals of T.J. Huerta are decidedly imperfect, but it’s very fitting for the tracks that comprise the album. The songs are full of regret and hearbreak. Apparently someone broke his heart good. But, the album is also a celebration of coming out the other side, in personal relationships and as a band. I think “Sunshine” is the key track to prove this point.

My favorite track on 2x Broken is a track called “Fingerfight.” The two minute jam is led by the crisp guitarwork of Huerta. The bass-line of Albert Huang keeps the song flowing while the percussion of Donny Mann brings it all together. “Enough with all this posturing, fingerfighting fist a cuffs I got myself an ex girlfriend, enough with all the apologizing, If you don't so I'm probably gonna do the same, I'm feeling like a bird in a cage when you come by to say hi you take this pain away I pray, and I pray.”

The album ends with “2x Broken” that begins as a classic country song before it leads into a punk rock jam that would make the Dropkick Murphys proud.

If you’ve been through a rough break-up this album may serve as therapy, and as I stated at the beginning of this review if you are/were a Sublime fan, you’ll ikely find yourself at home with Indofin.

They are releasing 2x Broken on July 13, and will have a hometown release party at an INsite Night on Friday July 16 at Encore (611 Red River) with The Buzzkillers, Under The Gun and Root Dimension. If you’re an early bird, they will be on your television between 7-9a playing Fox 7 Music in the Morning on July 16 as well.

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