SINGLE REVIEW: Time For Some Ink by Rob Georg

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Rob Georg is a country singer and songwriter originally hailing from Tuebingen in Germany. He became interested in music as a child, taking up the piano and then switching to guitar. He bought his first guitar at just 14 and this led to writing his own material. In 2018, he released his first official song Push That Horn and in December of that year came his first full band release, This Ain’t My First Rodeo. That song made it into the US National Radio Hits AC Charts Top Ten and since then he has released Ghost, which I reviewed highly favourably (read here).

This track, Time For Some Ink, is a distinct contrast to the emotionally troubled epic balladry of Ghost and shows a whole other side to his musical persona. It’s a very upbeat, tongue in cheek ode to the joys of getting a tattoo, a subject which so many will relate to but not one I’ve encountered in a rock song before.

The song starts out as laid back as you can get, with low-end guitar melding with a slow roll on the snare drum. From the opening lines you know that this is going to be a fun, light hearted song: “I need to catch a buzz from a tattoo pen, got to get some pictures on my skin”. The bridge is short but effective (“Tell me I’m addicted, I don’t care what you think”) before exploding into the anthemic title hook that you can imagine the crowd singing along to with ‘devil horns’ aloft.

The second verse gives a little more lyrical depth as it describes how tattoos tell the story of his life on his body. After the second chorus the rock ‘n roll factor is turned up to eleven with a Slash-style, wah-drenched guitar solo. Indeed, the whole song wouldn’t have sounded out of place on Guns ‘n Roses classic album Appetite For Destruction.

Overall, this is a highly enjoyable, hugely entertaining track which shows the rockier side to Rob Georg. He shows his voice is just as adept at rock as at country ballads and, again, his gift for writing epic, singalong choruses. This song is guaranteed to be popular with his current fan base and should win over plenty more, especially the fellow tattoo lovers out there!

 

VERDICT= 8.7 out of 10 

Alex Faulkner

 

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SINGLE REVIEW: Wasting Time by Ray Ryder

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https://www.rayryder.com.au

Ray Ryder is a singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist hailing from Australia and his music is in the country rock/pop category. Having studied music from a young age he eventually founded the group One Step Ahead who played with Sting, Chris Isaak and Bryan Ferry, amongst others. In 2016, he released his eponymous debut album which he wrote, performed and produced himself. This led to developing a large fan base. In 2017, he played the world’s biggest remote festival, the Birdsville Big Bash and has since visited Nashville to perform a series of showcases.

This song, Wasting Time, is his latest single and it’s an infectious and upbeat country rock track. Starting with a meaty drum beat and subtle but catchy guitar riff, Ray’s authentic and earthy lead vocals then become the focal point. After a succinct first verse it breaks out into a memorable chorus with reflective lyrics about learning lessons and finding the right path in life: “I’m a long way from where I’ve been, I’m not sure what’s wrong or right….if the point of living is not to fall on the way then I’ve been wasting time….”.

After the second chorus the song leads into a half-time section that provides nice rhythmic variety and features some rich organ. After breaking down for the third chorus it builds up to a concise and effective guitar solo that gives an extra musical lift to the track before driving home the last choruses to complete a perfectly arranged three minute song.

Overall, this is an impressive new release from Ray Ryder that has the authenticity and deep lyrics of country rock but with a modern pop production style that extends its commercial appeal even further. This song will be a sure fire hit with his present fan base but his potential to reach a massive worldwide audience is certainly very  strong. Hopefully, Wasting Time will be another important step towards that goal.

 

 

VERDICT = 8.7 out of 10

 

Alex Faulkner

 

ARTIST REVIEW: Suzanne Gladstone

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https://gladstonesong.com/home

Suzanne Gladstone is a country/soul singer and songwriter from San Diego. She was born in Oceanside, California and was one of ten children. Her childhood was rather difficult, being raised by her aunt and grandparents after the age of five. She turned to music and poetry for solace and this led to her love of singing and songwriting.

She is self taught and somewhat of a natural, with her paternal grandmother being a jazz singer. Along the way she has found inspiration from such artists as Mariah Carey, Celine Dion, Reba McEntire, Faith Hill and Garth Brooks amongst many others. Her voice has been compared to singers such as Shania Twain and Adele.

She has been steadily working on her debut album which so far consists of three completed original songs. In April this year she released the EP I Blew A Wish which has spawned two singles so far, the title track and Barely Felt The Fall, which was released May 21st. A third song, You Are The Reason (My Heart Beats), is yet to be released.

I Blew A Wish is a mid-paced country rock song that acts as a wonderful showcase for Suzanne’s powerful and versatile voice. Starting out with some bluesy harmonica that sets an authentic, rootsy vibe Suzanne then enters and delivers a knockout vocal performance. Holding back on the first verse she gets to unleash the Adele-esque power of her voice on the explosive, uplifting and memorable chorus.

Lyrically, the message is positive and empowering (“Leave those regrets behind”) but also expresses the harder side of life (“Another shot of whisky to get me through”) and Suzanne has the ability to convey strong emotion in her singing in a way that truly resonates in the listener, which is what separates the great singers from the good ones, in my opinion.

Barely Felt The Fall is another original song and has just been released as a single. This one is a poignant and melancholy country ballad that allows Suzanne to give another highly emotive and cathartic lead vocal performance. As with I Blew A Wish, the production and musicianship is exquisite, this one adorned with bursts of lonesome sounding slide guitar. Picked guitar and a melodic piano part are also instrumental highlights of this song.

Again, Suzanne displays her gift for emotional expression, running the gamut of emotions from sadness and regret (“I gave him my all, swept me off my feet”) to feisty anger (“You stomped on my heart“) on the second verse, as well as resignation.

The theme of the song is being heartbroken by a lover who has turned out to be unworthy of her, something many will be able to relate to. She really gets to express her considerable vocal range, especially during the soaring choruses where her singing is literally breathtaking. These two songs prove her both a highly gifted singer but also songwriter.

The other songs currently available on her website are well chosen cover versions which Suzanne interprets and performs in her own, uniquely emotive way. Perhaps aware that this is one of her biggest artistic strengths, she has chosen highly emotional songs that most will be familiar with.

Her version of Say Something by A Great Big World (ft. Christina Aguilera) is a very good reinterpretation that manages to convey a greater depth of feeling than the original. Suzanne’s passionate, heartfelt performance brought to mind Celine Dion and Adele, particularly her song Someone Like You.

Also superb is her cover of the modern classic Make You Feel My Love, originally written by the great Bob Dylan but made famous by Adele. Suzanne captures the poignancy in the lyrics and performs the haunting melody beautifully.

Another touching performance is her rendition of Sarah McLachlan’s Angel. By choosing songs that work well for just piano and vocal, it has allowed Suzanne’s voice to take the spotlight and centre stage where it belongs. So much modern pop music finds the singer competing against their overproduced musical backing, but not here.

Next comes a slight change of pace, a lovely version of the timeless jazzy classic Crazy by Patsy Cline. Suzanne delivers a suitably moving depiction of heartbreak and musically the arrangement is of the highest calibre.

After that is another contrast, a great cover of one of my all time favourite songs, the brooding country rock classic Black Velvet by Canada’s Alannah Myles. It’s a faithful rendition that captures all the sultry sensuality of the original, Suzanne getting to show a more edgy side to her musical persona.

The final cover is a real change of pace, an unexpected but very enjoyable version of Bob Marley’s wonderful song Three Little Birds. The light reggae groove and fine guitar work underpin a comparatively understated performance from Suzanne that suits the material perfectly. It shows she can pull off the more light hearted end of the recorded canon.

Overall, this is turning into a fantastic collection of songs for a debut album. Her original material is very well written and performed to an exceptional standard, managing to be both artistic and commercial. On the songs she’s chosen to cover she makes the songs her own through her ability to bring out hidden emotional depths via the power and beauty of her voice. Suzanne Gladstone has got the potential to be as big a star as the singers she idolized growing up.

 

 

VERDICT = 9 out of 10     

Alex Faulkner

Listen HERE

 

       

SINGLE REVIEW: Ghost by Rob Georg

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Rob Georg is a country singer and songwriter originally hailing from Tuebingen in Germany. He became interested in music as a child, taking up the piano and then switching to guitar. He bought his first guitar at just 14 and this led to writing his own material. In 2018, he released his first official song Push That Horn and in December of that year came his first full band release, This Ain’t My First Rodeo. That song made it into the US National Radio Hits AC Charts Top Ten.

This track, Ghost, is a mid paced country rock ballad that showcases his very fine abilities as both a singer and songwriter. It’s a haunting song about not being able to move on from a relationship, something nearly everyone will be able to relate to. It begins with a strident beat and subtle strains of steel guitar before Rob’s powerful and distinctive voice enters.

He gives a compelling lead vocal performance full of emotion and nuance, yet still perfectly controlled. The first verse finds him reflecting on his lost relationship after a sleepless night, his sorrow captured in lines like, “I tried to bury the bones of all the memories you left behind.

It builds to a memorable chorus augmented by subtle but effective harmonies and the songs theme is captured succinctly by the last line: “Guess I’ll spend the rest of my life being haunted by your ghost”. After the second chorus we hear a finely crafted and understated guitar solo which leads to the poignant and moving final breakdown chorus as he resigns himself to his fate.

Overall, this is a very well written and performed country rock ballad that packs an emotional punch. Rob Georg captures the turmoil of heartbreak and regret in his poetic lyrics, conveyed with depth by his emotive vocal style. Even more importantly, the song’s main melody is highly memorable. With pristine production and a radio friendly sound, Ghost has the makings of a huge hit and should make him many new fans.

 

VERDICT= 9 out of 10 

Alex Faulkner

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SINGLE REVIEW: Amazing by Russell Lee

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Russell Lee is a Canadian born country rock singer/songwriter now residing in Winnipeg, Manitoba. He enjoyed a great deal of success in 2017 through the release of his album What Do I Do. The lead single from that album garnered an enormous 500,000 views on YouTube. He received six nominations at the Manitoba Music Awards and also had the privilege of playing the main stage at the world renowned Dauphin Countryfest. Since then, he has been working on a new album, Meant To Be.

This track, Amazing, is taken from that album and makes a great showcase for his first rate skills as both a singer and songwriter. It’s an uptempo country rock song with a strongly romantic theme, about feeling gratitude to have someone special in your life and letting them know you’ll be there for them.

Starting with strummed acoustic guitar, the first verse is fairly sparse with Russell’s strong and distinctive vocals allowed to take centre stage, backed by drums, organ and a little electric guitar. The sound is enriched by the perfectly executed layered backing harmonies which recur throughout the song.

It builds to a touching, memorable chorus as he appreciates how fortunate he is: “It’s amazing to me, you want to be by my side. After the second chorus we hear a well crafted lead guitar solo, something we don’t hear enough of in modern music. Special credit should go to the high standard of production, as good as anything you’ll hear on the radio and the performances of all the musicians involved are all of the highest calibre.

Overall, this is a well written country rock song, performed and produced to perfection by Russell Lee and his talented musical cohorts. With a likeable voice that’s easy on the ear and a fine way with melody, his commercial radio friendly sound bodes well for the song’s success. He already has a large fanbase, and with further material as strong as this he should continue to reach bigger and bigger numbers of people with his music.

 

VERDICT = 8.6 out of 10           

Alex Faulkner

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ALBUM REVIEW: Pack Up The Moon by D.C. Bloom

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D.C. Bloom is a folk/country singer and songwriter based in Austin. Having released several solo albums, his recent years have been blighted by serious health problems including multiple strokes and open heart surgeries. Only days after his album Just Another Song And Dance Man had charted in the Top 30 on FolkDJ, he unfortunately suffered a triple stroke which tragically left him unable to walk, confining him to a wheelchair.

Remarkably, he’s been able to continue making music and has recorded his sixth album Pack Up The Moon with two of Austin’s finest musicians, Chip Dolan (keyboard, accordion) and Dave Scher (lead guitar). The album consists of thirteen songs essentially in the folk and country genres, and naturally many of the songs deal with the insights and wisdom gained through overcoming such health difficulties. There is a strong spiritual aspect throughout the album, and the importance of faith is a recurring theme.

From the gentle and moving opening track, Saint of All Lost Causes, it quickly becomes apparent that Bloom is a highly accomplished songwriter both musically and lyrically. He writes the kind of deep, poetic lyrics borne from a lifetime of experience that you simply don’t hear in mainstream music much these days.

There’s a playfulness and humour to the opening line, “My pencil’s got a flat tire, erasing where I’ve been” which is contrasted by the Dylanesque gravity of lines like, “I’ve been scarred and marred by you, stigmatised with grief, my stolen life’s been wasted by a lover and a thief….”.

Musically, it consists of gentle, fingerpicked acoustic guitar and Bloom’s plaintive lead vocals that fit the material perfectly. With a succinct and moving chorus, it gets the album off to a powerful and poignant start.

Braced For The Big One is a nice contrast, musically an upbeat country rock number but with far deeper lyrics than you’ll usually find in this genre. It’s about how people are powerless in the hands of fate and accepting it: “Go shiver in the darkness, hunker down and pray, with our wagons in a circle got to take it day to day…”. Dave Scher contributes a fine lead guitar solo.

Soft Landings is the albums gentle epic, a five minute acoustic ballad consisting of just delicate picked acoustic guitar, Bloom’s emotive and intimate vocals and suitably soft use of brushes. It’s another song that goes to the heart of the human condition, the need for safety and security amidst life’s slings and arrows: “With the sorrow and the suffering of each cross we’re asked to bear, we keep longing for soft landings and the loving hands that care”.

Fourth track Harbor is another song about dealing with hardship in its many forms, this one a soothing ballad with a memorable melody. This one features some superb piano and organ accompliment courtesy of Chip Dolan, which really enriches the sound. Again, the spiritual theme of redemption runs through the song like a thread: “There’s a byway for every prodigal who feels it’s time to make things right….”.

Gone With The Texas Wind is a well crafted traditional country song, instantly catchy and infectious. Cleverly, it depicts the sound of blowing wind through the use of a musical saw (played by another Austin musician, Guy Forsyth). It’s these subtle touches that show the craftsmanship of a true artist.

Blessing in Disguise is a fine ballad with a lyrical lesson about “a femme fatale who corralled me with her Charleston charms”. It’s about finding wisdom even in bad experiences and it’s a real showcase for Bloom’s gift for eloquent and inventive wordplay.

Gospel Plow is a more overt expression of Bloom’s strong Christian faith, featuring some bluesy piano. It’s another well written song whose sentiments will resonate with everyone, regardless of faith or belief. The following Outskirts Of Paris is a rather different song, given a real Gallic charm through the use of accordion throughout. The instrumental colour and variety across the album is one of its many strengths and this song contains some of his most poetic imagery: “Ivy vines wither in the desolate heat”.

Ninth track Falling Down is an interesting song, with a beautiful descending vocal melody that brought to mind early Simon and Garfunkel as well as The Beatle’s Eleanor Rigby. It’s another of Bloom’s profoundly contemplative and philosophical songs at which he excels, with powerful lines like, “Every wall is bound to crumble, every brick will find its pile, all that’s left behind are hints that it once stood….”.

Still Life Composition is another song with an exotic European sound, this one featuring some gorgeous Spanish acoustic guitar playing in harmony, reminiscent of ABBA’s classic track Chiquitita. A very charming, sweet love song with clever use of metaphors.

Upside Of Down returns is to more traditional country fare, replete with slide guitar and banjo. It’s one of his uplifting songs about trying to see the glass half full. Next comes the title track and it’s an unexpected diversion into jazz, with a swinging rhythm that gets the toe tapping instantly. It has a jaunty, Blue Suede Shoes feel but the lyrics are dry and downbeat, an effective contrast: “Haul off the stars, they won’t be shooting no more, they’ve lost the tug of war, no need to gas the car….”

The album ends with the poignant piano-led ballad Going, Coming Home, which blends spoken and sung sections, again adding a little variety. It’s a genuinely heartwarming piece of songwriting about life’s long journey that brought to mind the lines from T.S Eliot’s Four Quartets: “The end of our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.” A perfect way to complete the album, an emotional journey in itself.

Overall, this is a superb collection of songs that are unified by their lyrical depth and profundity as well as the consistently high quality of the music. D.C. Bloom draws on a lifetime of experience and hard earned wisdom, and to carry on after several strokes is testament to his artistic spirit and tenacity. Hopefully, many will get to hear this fine songwriter’s work and will be both uplifted and comforted by it.

 

VERDICT = 9.1 out of 10           

Alex Faulkner

 

E.P. REVIEW: Coming Back Stronger by Patrick Carpenter

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Official website HERE

Patrick Carpenter is a singer/songwriter and guitarist from Jackson, Mississippi. He started out in music by wanting to emulate his guitar playing heroes such as Richie Sambora, Eddie Van Halen and Brad Paisley, picking up the guitar himself at just eleven. He has since developed into a singer/songwriter and launched himself as a solo artist in 2018. His music is essentially a combination of traditional country, mainstream pop, blues and 80’s-style arena-rock as personified by bands like Bon Jovi.

This EP, Coming Back Stronger, consists of six tracks and has already reached #13 in the ITunes chart, which is truly impressive for a debut release. It begins with the title track, an instantly memorable and enjoyable country rock track with an 80’s-esque stadium-rock drum sound.

Patrick is gifted with a strong and recognizable voice that’s easy on the ear and perfectly suited to the material. Featuring an anthemic chorus augmented by fine backing harmonies, it’s an uplifting song about fighting back against adversity. Towards the end, we get to hear his superb lead guitar skills which finishes off an excellent track nicely.

Second track Chance on Me is a more sensitive side to his songwriting, an epic six-minute country rock ballad in 6/8. It works as a showcase for his first rate lead vocals and musically, it’s enriched by warm organ and tasteful, controlled bursts of lead guitar, although he does allow himself to let rip a little towards the end. I Wish She Knew is another fine ballad based on a musical bedrock of piano and strummed acoustic guitar. This one is a more melancholy song about being unable to tell someone how they feel, a subject many will relate to.

Back Again is quite a contrast, a demo version of a song that combines country rock with a more electronic influence in the drums which gives it a modern sound. It’s another strong piece of songwriting and I’d be interested to hear the song in its complete production form.

The following Drink of You is my personal favourite on the EP, an infectious and up tempo country pop/rock track and perhaps the one with the most commercial potential of the songs here. Lyrically, it’s a twist on the current fad for country songs celebrating drinking, this time being a metaphor for being intoxicated by the effect of a desired woman. If this hasn’t been released as a single yet, it should be!

The final track Controlled Madness shows the influence of late 80’s stadium-rock with its use of a talk box, first made famous by Peter Frampton and employed on the Bon Jovi classic Livin’ On A Prayer. It gives the song a quirky edge that is unexpected, set to a great rock backing that brought to mind Neil Young’s Rockin’ In The Free World. A great way to finish.

Overall, this is a very strong set of songs that show the versatility of Patrick Carpenter as a songwriter, singer and lead guitarist. Taking country-rock and combining it with the classic stadium-rock sound isn’t an easy trick to pull of, but Patrick makes it seem natural and the result is a musical style that is both vintage and modern. With further material as good as this, the sky’s the limit for Patrick Carpenter.

 

VERDICT = 8.7 out of 10             

Alex Faulkner

 

Listen here: