E.P. REVIEW: Nashville Songwriting Sessions by Claudia Norris




Claudia Norris is a singer/songwriter currently residing in Edmonton, Alberta in Canada. She has been songwriting since 14 and sharing her music on YouTube since 2007. She has run her musical career in parallel with her career as a certified make-up artist, and regularly travels to Nashville and L.A. to write, perform and record.

Her Shine EP received airplay on over 100 radio stations and she was a finalist in the Great American Song Contest in 2015. She’s amassed a huge fanbase (30k+) online, her army of fans known as Claudiators! She regards her influences as Taylor Swift, Adele and Meghan Trainor, and these influences are in evidence on this 5 track EP, Nashville Recording Sessions.

Opening track Say Yes is a finely crafted piece of country-tinged pop that Taylor Swift would be proud to have written, and a showcase for Claudia’s crystal clear and powerful voice. Like Taylor and Adele, her music mostly deals with timeless emotional issues, though there is also the light-hearted exuberance of Meghan Trainor in the musical mix.

Second song Stronger is the standout on this EP, for me. It’s an emotive ballad about a trust and communication breakdown in a relationship, with Claudia delivering a vocal performance of both passion and restraint. Lyrically, it shows the empowering message behind her music with lines like, “Don’t blame me, I’m not changing, couldn’t be your Barbie doll“. With its radio friendly sound and memorable chorus, this sounds like it could become a huge worldwide hit.

Third track Heartbeat is a more upbeat and fun Meghan Trainor-style song which is based on classic 1950’s era chord changes and has the sweet innocence of that musical period. The chorus is ultra catchy, the whole track driven by propulsive, rhythmic piano and it also brought to mind the British pop group Scouting For Girls.

Stay is another Stronger-type ballad which is well written and performed, though perhaps a little too similar to Sam Smith’s massive hit Stay With Me, at least lyrically. Final track Love On Replay is the most modern sounding song here, with a Rihanna/RnB influence that adds another interesting facet to her music. It broadens her appeal and is, again, extremely catchy and packed with hooks.

Overall, this EP is first class evidence that Claudia Norris is a superb singer and songwriter. As an artist, she stands poised halfway between the two pop giants of this era, Taylor Swift and Adele. Her positive, empowering message is perfect for the times, and with Stronger, she has a song that could catapult her to the centre of the world stage and deservedly so.


VERDICT: 8.7 out of 10

 Alex Faulkner


E.P. REVIEW: Crow Eats Man by Crow Eats Man


Crow Eats Man are a five-piece heavy rock band based in Mountain View, California, who formed in 2016 and are heavily influenced by rock/grunge bands like Stone Temple Pilots and Alice in Chains, who both  rose to prominence in the nineties. They combine these influences with aspects of more recent rock bands like Queens of the Stone Age and Avenged Sevenfold. The fusion of grunge and modern rock/metal gives them a unique sound, aided by all members being highly proficient musicians and performers.

This five-track eponymous  E.P. is their first release and packs a powerful sonic punch. Crow Eats Man make music on an epic scale, with several tracks clocking in at close to, or over, five minutes, including the E.P. lead track Jaded. Based around a descending chord sequence and some meaty guitar riffs, it is Sebastian’s lead vocals that really grab your attention. His full-throated delivery brings to mind the vocals of rock legends Scott Weiland and Layne Staley, both sadly now passed on. After a brooding verse, it bursts into a cathartic, engaging chorus lifted further by a killer high riff; “I’m faded, I’m jaded, you brought me to my knees….” runs the memorable refrain.

The production is first rate, with every instrument recorded with crystalline clarity and mixed to perfection. After the standard verse/chorus structure, the band really allow the music to breathe. Following the second chorus, a passage of Avenged Sevenfold-esque harmonized guitar leads to some cyclonic drumming, then a break down section which culminates in a blazing guitar solo. One last chorus drives the song home and you can see why this is the lead track. Excellent stuff.

Lost Son, the second track, starts with a dark, sleazy low-end riff that any self respecting metal band would be proud of, before launching into a hard-rocking song guaranteed to get the moshpit headbanging. It alternates between sections of heavy Alice in Chains-style grind and slightly lighter but still hard hitting Audioslave-type riffs, with vocals that brought to mind Josh Homme. They show their musical chops towards the end with alternating sections of 5/4 and 6/4, which shows the influence of progressive rock, another facet to this band.

This rhythmic complexity continues on third song Before Sunday, which is in triple time throughout. It creates a brooding sonic soundscape with rumbling, swirling riffs and ascending lines played in octaves, with Sebastian giving an excellent vocal performance. It brought to mind the cathartic rage of Soundgarden, with Sebastian reminiscent of the late, great Chris Cornell. The exotic lead guitar work towards the end made me think of Faith No More’s Jim Martin circa their classic Angel Dust album.

Deependit is another bulldozer of a song built on a colossal low-end riff. It builds to an anthemic chorus strengthened by solid backing vocals, with a highly melodic bassline that helps drive the music forward. It culminates in a potent, wah-drenched guitar solo that doesn’t outstay its welcome and completes one of the strongest tracks on the E.P.

Closing song, the excellently titled Fresno Cigarette Run, is a relatively short but no less powerful way to finish. It features some biting machine-gun riffage and combines 4/4 and 6/8 time to great effect, with a catchy chant section and creative use of space. It provides a little light relief after the emotional intensity of the earlier tracks and bookends over twenty minutes of sustained high quality rock perfectly.

Overall, this is a highly impressive debut E.P. from a rock band who have hit the ground running and found their own style. Combining elements of old-school grunge with more modern influences and production techniques gives them an appeal for both young and old rock fans. Their first-class musicianship should mean that they thrive on the live circuit and, in Jaded, they have a track that should do well on American radio and elsewhere. This is a band with huge potential for the future. Ones to keep an eye on in 2018.

VERDICT: 8.9 out of 10 

Alex Faulkner

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E.P. REVIEW: Once Upon A Scary Night by Robin B. Czar

Robin B. Czar - Once Upon a Scary Night - EP Cover


Robin B. Czar is a singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist who is German but currently resides in Canterbury, England. He has developed a cult fan base owing to his unique sound; it is a fascinating fusion of old school hard rock/metal like Black Sabbath, with more modern influences such as Marilyn Manson and HIM. Vocally, he has an immediately distinctive tone reminiscent of David Bowie and Buzzcocks singer Howard Devoto.

He has released three albums, Nachtgesange, Kiss from The Abyss and Mission Bizarre, which I reviewed a couple of years back. This E.P., Once Upon A Scary Night, consists of three tracks which form a ‘trilogy about a fictional character’ who goes through an emotional journey portrayed across one night that resolves the next day. For the fans who love his established sound, they will be pleased to know it retains the virtuoso musicianship, darkly humorous lyrics and ambitious, sophisticated arrangements that have become his trademarks.

Opening track Candle In The Rain begins in a blaze of Avenged Sevenfold-esque guitar pyrotechnics, displaying Robin’s incredibly fluent style, grabbing the listener’s attention immediately with a swirling riff that he harmonizes to great effect. The first verse depicts a life of misery over a sparse musical backing: “Another endless day has passed, another sleepless night begins.…”. The bridge/pre chorus bursts out of the speakers in a blaze of guitars and syncopated rhythms, the lyrics even darker: “The torture never stops, its like a nightmare without waking up…”.

Then the gloom is relieved by the instantly catchy title hook which refers to the fleeting and fragile nature of life: “Like a candle in the rain, everything’s vain in the end….”. After the second chorus there is an excellent instrumental passage, first with a short half time section featuring beefy, low-end riffage before launching into a fantastic solo, again featuring Bat Country-style duel guitar harmonies, then one last chorus.

Second song Until The Morning Breaks is a complete contrast musically, but carries on the nocturnal theme. This one is a brooding, intense epic rock ballad which starts with a lilting piano motif before a sparse but effective beat kicks in and Robin portrays a bleak, gothic scene: “The raging wind’s outside… the winter storm, it howls, it’s banging at the door….ghosts from forgotten graves come to you in need….”.

It builds gradually in intensity across the duration of the track, with atmospheric synths and subtle lead guitar work adding to the texture. The central theme of the ‘dark night of the soul’ is captured in another memorable chorus: “In sombre silence you sit in here and wait…until the morning breaks….”. After the second chorus there is an instrumental section with a concise, well structured solo played in octaves. It ends poignantly with the return of the piano phrase.

The final track Kill Everybody, is again in strong contrast to the previous song, this one hurtling along at a hectic pace, though not quite what you’d classify as speed metal. It shows Robin’s macabre sense of humour for the first time on the E.P., with a scenario in the lyrics reminiscent of the film Falling Down, about a man who cracks from stress and starts taking revenge on whoever has slightly wronged him.

Robin clearly has his tongue in his cheek as he sings: “Now is the girl who gave the wrong change, now it’s too late for mercy or tears….”. It leads to the joyously delivered chorus hook: “Kill everybody! Now it’s payback time….”. After the second chorus, Robin wrong foots the listener once more, reducing the tempo drastically for a build up section that airs grievances in a humorous fashion: “They do the same job, but get paid a bonus on top….”. Then ensues a return to the machine gun kick drums of the first half of the song, Robin delivering the best guitar solo of all, performed with a mellifluous, silky tone to bring things to a satisfying musical climax.

Overall, this is an excellent E.P. that’s works as a complete whole rather than just a collection of separate songs based around a lead single, as is usually the case. Robin B. Czar can lay claim to a genuinely original sound and style, melding rock (classic, prog, and industrial) with elements of heavy metal, then throwing quirky, eccentric lyrical themes shot through with Gothic black humour into the mix. It all adds up to an entertaining sonic concoction and this E.P. raises the bar even higher in the context of his previous work. Rock/metal fans looking for something a little left of field are implored to give him a listen!


VERDICT: 8.8 out of 10

Alex Faulkner


E.P. REVIEW: You Find Out On Your Own by Michael Reddington



Michael Reddington is a singer songwriter hailing from Nottingham who initially had his sights set on being a sound engineer, which for a while he achieved when working at the venue Stealth, where he worked with Bastille and Shy FX. However, an escalator accident ripped off his big toe, leaving him bed ridden for three months. He turned to music to get through, and began his songwriting journey which has led to this EP.

His music is essentially well crafted pop/rock in the great British tradition and you can hear myriad influences in these three songs, from The Beatles to The Smiths, though he also cites American songwriters like Neil Young, Ryan Adams and Tom Petty. His lyrics are very much rooted in the struggles of everyday life.

Opening song You Find Out On Your Own is an excellent start, a mid paced piece of guitar pop that has a nice Beatles-esque lead guitar line, warm pulsing bass, subtle piano and rich organ filling out the sound. It alternates between a lilting 4/4 rhythm on the intro and verse then switches to 2/4 on the bridge/chorus which injects momentum into the music.

Lyrically, it’s strong, a rumination on figuring things out through your own life experiences rather than accepting what others say: “I’ve been keep on making my own rules, avoiding fools…they don’t teach you any of this in school, I guess you find out on your own…”. His vocals are very good, comfortable singing in a high range and the whole song is catchy and memorable while avoiding anything predictable.

Monotony Lobotomy is slightly faster paced and in 4/4 throughout, lyrically a melancholy tale of frustration through being stuck in a humdrum situation and longing for a chance to escape, though still with a ray of hope for the future (“Just one chance and they’ll be no stopping me….”). The vocal melody and main hook are haunting, expressing the weariness of the lyrics perfectly.

Final track Uniform is a slow paced acoustic track, and lyrically takes an acerbic look at those to conform rather than show any individuality: “You’re a nancy of a man, got to do for them all you can…in uniform“. It’s another very melodic and memorable song, augmented by some lovely strings as the track progresses.

Overall, this is an excellent EP that shows Michael Reddington as a quality songwriter both musically and lyrically, with a fine gift for melody and a voice that is both distinctive and easy on the ear. While it’s hard these days for a songwriter to break through, he has everything it takes and I look forward to hearing a whole album from him.


Alex Faulkner (The Faulkner Review)


VERDICT: 8.9 out of 10

E.P. REVIEW: Balloons by Dechard



E.P. REVIEW: Pompadour by Kenny Flame



Kenny Flame is an American alternative R&B musician from Harlem, New York. He is known for his eclectic sound mixing soul, spoken and folk. His career began in 2010 when he won the 10th Annual National Black Writers Conference Writing Contest for poetry. Since then, he has won various awards for his music and had five number ones on internet radio, including the smash hit Julie.

This five track EP was inspired by the 1950’s era and this is reflected in the music and such artists as Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Chet Baker and Jackie Wilson, amongst others. There is a soul/jazz element to all the songs here which he wrote himself, except for a cover of Adele’s Hometown Glory.

Opening track Oh What A Night is built around a skeletal guitar lick that brought to mind Michael Jackson’s Black or White, though the musical similarities end there.
Kenny has a fine voice for this kind of material and this mellow song has a distinct charm and emotional warmth missing from much of modern music.

City Lights is more upbeat, a 50’s style rock n roll song with a swinging beat and a real feel good vibe. There is also a country element to the guitar lines that weave in and out throughout, and played in the way you’d hear on early Elvis records. The vocal melody is very catchy and makes for a very enjoyable listen.

Friends is absolutely lovely; just vocals, dreamy reverb drenched guitar and vibraphone, though my only slight criticism would be his voice is a little low in the mix on this one. He maintains a similar style for a nice reinterpretation of Adele’s Hometown Glory but the closing Stay (For Jazz) is a real highlight and perhaps the best song here. The lyrics are emotional and fiercely honest (“My awkwardness leaves me insecure…”) which adds to the touching poignancy, sung over a beautiful jazzy chord progression.

Overall, a very accomplished EP that showcases Kenny Fame’s versatile talents as a singer and songwriter and should enhance his reputation and fanbase further.


Alex Faulkner


VERDICT: 8.3 out of 10

E.P. REVIEW: Madelyn Victoria by Madelyn Victoria


Madelyn Victoria is a country singer and songwriter hailing from Deep South Texas. She began singing and performing from an early age, entering talent competitions and earning awards. At thirteen, she became lead singer for her church and started writing songs. She now performs with her band around Texas and has shared the stage with Easton Corbin, Turnpike Troubadours, Clay Walker and many others.

This eponymous five track EP is a great representation of her talents. She writes country songs in the classic style but with modern production to bring it up to date. Opening track Hold On is a fine start, starting with a picked guitar intro and progressing into an upbeat country rock song aided by fiddle and slide guitar. She has an excellent voice, comparable to Shania Twain and Miranda Lambert, truly shining on the memorable chorus. This would make the perfect choice as a single.

Breaking My Heart has more of a swinging feel, with a nice rolling bassline and another fine vocal performance from Madelyn. The song is nicely constructed with some gorgeous flourishes of slide guitar, especially the solo towards the end. Lyrically, it’s about a relationship that is causing pain and needs to end despite the strong attraction and desire: “Oh no, now they’re playing our song, should we dance, take one last chance and let it burn all night long?”.

He Only Loves Me On The Dancefloor is slower paced and is again about the lure of a relationship based on not much more than physical attraction. The chorus to this song is particularly memorable, latching in your mind on the first listen, marking it out as another potential single.

Wild Ride is a great contrast, a fast paced country rocker that seems designed for a hoedown on the dancefloor. Madelyn gives a feisty performance on this party song that is guaranteed to uplift your mood. It’s another catchy chorus and the half time section works well. Final track Sand In A Bottle is a nice mellow song to close with, featuring both guitar and fiddle solos, plus lovely picked acoustic guitar as the song fades out.

Overall, this is an extremely impressive EP from a very gifted singer/songwriter who has everything it takes to hit the big time. With an excellent band behind her, flawless production and most importantly, great songs, her star is surely on the ascendance.


Alex Faulkner


VERDICT: 9 out of 10