SINGLE REVIEW: Time For Some Ink by Rob Georg

timeforsomeink_cover_final.png

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

 

Listen here:

SINGLE REVIEW: Without You by Alex Costova

ALEX COSTOVA EP COVER 1.1.jpg

https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/without-you-single/1380577411

Alex Costova (a.k.a. The Pianist of Dreams) is an up and coming singer and songwriter hailing from Boston, Massachusetts. He is a self taught musician and singer, with piano being his primary instrument. He began playing music at the tender age of eight and has been writing songs ever since. In 2018, he released the song Dreamer and has since been busy working on his first studio EP, See You In My Dreams, which is soon to be released. He also has aspirations to write scores for movies and short films.

This song, Without You, is a summery sounding pop/EDM track with elements of dancehall. Starting with a beautifully constructed, melodic piano introduction, Alex’s distinctive vocals enter drenched in rich reverb and slick production effects. The track is lifted by a laid back, very danceable RnB style beat and it is at this point in the song that we hear the memorable title hook.

Lyrically, it’s on the timeless theme of loving someone so deeply that you don’t know how you’d emotionally survive without them, something most will relate to. That feeling is conveyed by lines like, “I’ve been waiting my whole life for you….” and brought home by the stirring final choruses featuring the title refrain.

Overall, this is an impressive single release from Alex Costova which highlights his gifts as a singer, songwriter and pianist. The production is very classy and contemporary in style, perfectly suitable for mainstream pop radio but with its EDM overtones it would be equally popular in the clubs. For fans of acts like The Weeknd and Major Lazer, as well as pop/EDM fans in general, I can highly recommend the music of Alex Cordova and I’m sure this is a name the world will be hearing plenty more of in the future.

 

VERDICT= 8.8 out of 10

Alex Faulkner

Listen here:


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

2019-03-06 00_53_35-cover-HIREZ.pdf - Foxit Reader.jpg

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

 

SINGLE REVIEW: Lullaby by Edward St. Martin

Screenshot_2018-12-03 Edward St Martin.png

Edward St. Martin is a songwriter, composer and lead artist producer based in San Diego. His background is actually in classical music and film composition, and he applies this knowledge to his foray into writing songs in the pop genre. This combination of styles is something I would describe as ‘epic pop’ or ‘orchestral pop’. Recent releases have included In The Ocean Of My Love, Fast Car and Don’t Leave Me.

This track, Lullaby, is a fine example of his classical-influenced epic pop. It features a female vocalist with a fantastic voice similar to Sia and there is a dramatic grandeur to the music that brought to mind Evanescence. Whereas Evanescence leans more towards rock music, there is a definite influence of EDM in the production style. It begins with a powerful orchestral introduction featuring a classical-style chord progression, before crystalline female vocals enter with troubled lyrics: “Four o’ clock and I’ve barely even slept yet…..”.

She is backed effectively by flowing piano melodies and epic orchestral percussion. The bridge builds like a dance track, leading to a colossal chorus where a four-to-the-floor beat emerges. The dynamics of the music are cleverly arranged so that there’s constant variety in the sparse and epic parts of the song. The strings that feature throughout add a great deal to the feeling of drama and gives it a musicality that is lacking from most EDM music.

Overall, this is an extremely accomplished fusion of pop, classical and EDM by a gifted composer in collaboration with a fine female singer. Edward St. Martin has impressively developed his own sonic niche by drawing on his experience in film and classical composition. He has developed an orchestral form of pop/EDM that has enormous creative and commercial potential, the best of both worlds. Lullaby should help bring a much greater awareness of his music to the listening public and deservedly so.

 

VERDICT= 8.8 out of 10 

Alex Faulkner

Listen here:

SINGLE REVIEW: Move by Glorious

glorious

www.gloriouslive.com

Glorious is a pop singer-songwriter, producer and multi-instrumentalist from Washington, D.C. but now based in New York. Remarkably, by the age of three she started playing drums and is now a livetronica drummer. She combines this talent and her jazz background with her abilities as a songwriter and vocalist. Her influences are numerous, from fellow pop singers like Beyonce and Pink, EDM artists like Tiesto, David Guetta and Diplo as well as jazz legends like Miles Davis.

This track, Move, is a hugely infectious pop track that shows her self-belief and artistic potential. She has a magnificent voice, comparable to Beyonce and Christina Aguilera with a similarly huge vocal range. The song itself is actually about her skills as a drummer, however, and the power that rhythm has to make people dance. Naturally, it has a brilliant beat that gets your top tapping immediately, but the track also features a funky, driving bassline and a lead vocal from Glorious that is by turns smoky and sultry then exultant and powerful on the incendiary chorus.

The title hook is brief but incredibly catchy: “I make the whole room move….”. After the second chorus the song takes an unexpected left turn into a dreamy, blissed out middle eight section where she sings sincerely, “I know you feel it, deep in your soul….”. It then gradually builds back up for a couple more killer choruses, with some fantastic vocal extemporizations towards the end. The production is slick, inventive and modern, as good as anything you’ll hear in the Billboard Top 100.

Overall, Glorious has written, performed and produced a pop classic. As vocally gifted as her idols, her skills behind the kit only add to her appeal, but most importantly this is simply a great song. Equally suited to both radio and the dancefloor, this track will surely make a strong impact on the music world and make her legions of new fans. For my money, Glorious could well go on to become the next Beyonce.

 

VERDICT= 9.2 out of 10

Alex Faulkner

Listen here:

 

SINGLE REVIEW: Fool’s Gold by Stephen Dusenberry

20181124_215751.jpg

Stephen Dusenberry is a composer/songwriter, producer and multi-instrumentalist. He was somewhat of a child prodigy, starting the drums at three years old and being offered his first gig at four. At six, he started playing keyboards and writing his own songs then taught himself guitar, clarinet and trumpet. He then spent his adolescence in a diverse range of bands, with his progressive rock band Twilight Machine signed to AFM records while he was only sixteen.

After attending Berklee College of Music he ended up spending two weeks at no.1 on the Billboard charts with a remix of Audio Playground’s Hands Up In The Air. Unfortunately, he was then struck down with skin cancer, with the tumor eventually removed. Upon his recovery, he began work on his most ambitious solo project to date, Steal City. This involved him writing, performing and producing everything purely by himself which led to comparisons with the great Quincy Jones.

This complete artistic and musical autonomy applies to his latest track, Fool’s Gold. In case anyone mistakes it for a cover of the classic track of the same name by The Stone Roses, this is very much an original composition in every sense of the word. It’s an irresistibly funky instrumental that allows Dusenberry to showcase his considerable musical versatility and virtuosity. Starting with a brisk rap of the snare drum, it launches into an instantly infectious groove consisting of brass, organ, piano and synths over a bedrock of water-tight bass and drums.

Aside from the impressive degree of musical skill in performing the track, the intricacy and detail of the arrangement is where Dusenberry truly excels. Like an artist using sparing amounts of colour, many of the instruments make brief cameos then allow another sound to take center stage. The instrumental colour and variety made me think of another autonomous composer/musician Frank Zappa and his classic Hot Rats instrumental Peaches En Regalia. The overall style and sound is comparable to another musical genius, Stevie Wonder.

The main hook of the track is the catchy horn lines that enter straight away, augmented by contrapuntal melodies or supporting chords on either organ, piano or synth. Special mention should go to the crisp, precise drumming and the rhythmic and melodic invention of the bassline. Halfway through, it enters a more sparse section that allows him to build things back up for the second half, which features a brief but brilliant organ solo.

Overall, this is a fantastic instrumental that lies between soul, funk and jazz. Stephen Dusenberry is simply one of those immensely gifted musicians and composers that occur only rarely, and Fool’s Gold captures him at the height of his powers. With a complete mastery of everything he plays and a deep understanding of how to compose and arrange, the result is a hugely enjoyable piece of music that deserves to be appreciated by both connoisseurs and casual music fans alike.

 

VERDICT = 9.2 out of 10

Alex Faulkner

 

Listen here:

 

SINGLE REVIEW: Better Than Before by Eduard Alexogiannopoloulos

BTB(1).png

Eduard Alexogiannopoloulos is a singer and songwriter in the acoustic pop genre originally from Greece (as some may guess from his surname) but is now based in England. His musical style has been compared to Counting Crows, Matt Costa and Third Eye Blind though I would personally place his music in the category of songwriters like Ed Sheeran and George Ezra, along with the British group from a few years ago, The Feeling. He released his first single, Need To Know, in 2017.

This song, Better Than Before, is a great showcase for Eduard’s unique sensibilities as a songwriter. Musically, the track is essentially upbeat acoustic pop and Eduard is blessed with a distinctive yet very radio-friendly voice. Lyrically, there’s a likeable quirkiness that is self-evident from the opening lines: “All we need is an hour of sunshine, a glass of cheap wine….”.

What is impressive about the song is how memorable it is without relying on over-repetition like so many modern chart hits. The vocal melody soon latches in the mind while the lyrics continually move the song forward, so that it never grows stale. The subtle Scouting For Girls-type quarter-note piano also aids the momentum and special mention should go to the first rate production, which both inventive and classy.

Overall, this is a well-crafted, infectious second single from a young singer/songwriter who has a gift for writing charming melodies set to colourful lyrics. His music seems perfect for the times as well as highly suited to mainstream pop radio, so with more songs of this high quality I predict this is one name you may hear a lot of in the future. Good luck pronouncing it.

 

 

VERDICT: 8.6 out of 10 

Alex Faulkner

Listen here:

 

 

SINGLE REVIEW: A Heartbreak In The Making by Randall Lee Richards

thumbnail_Heartbreak-cover_3000_007-1.jpg

http://www.RandallLeeRichards.com

Randall Lee Richards is a country singer and songwriter hailing from Birmingham, Alabama. He was musically precocious as a child, learning guitar and drums from age ten. Remarkably, at twelve he recorded his first song and headed for Nashville, where he signed a deal and recorded his first single within a month. Since then, he has played on some of the world’s biggest stages like The Roxy and The Troubadour, and been mentored by legends like Neil Diamond and Elton John.

As a songwriter, he has been hugely successful, having had over a hundred songs recorded, with millions of copies sold worldwide. In 2017, he released A Paradise Life which climbed high on the Billboard Indicator chart and was played on over 2,000 stations worldwide.

This song, A Heartbreak In The Making, is one end result of a highly prolific year for Richards’ songwriting, which has seen him influenced by writers like Keith Urban and Thomas Rhett. It’s a country rock song not unlike the more country-influenced power ballads of Bon Jovi. Randall is blessed with a strong, authentic voice that carries conviction and emotion, with the song being a twist on the “boy meets girl” theme.

You can hear the experience and highly developed craftsmanship in the songwriting and the well structured arrangement. Although the style is fairly traditional, it has been produced in a very modern way, with the drums sounds particularly cutting edge. The vocals are cleverly layered with subtle harmonies on certain lines, especially apparent on the huge chorus which soon latches in the memory.

Lyrically, it’s about a powerful attraction to a femme fatale who will break your heart: “Baby, I can see through your disguise, no, you can’t fool me with those eyes, girl you know I’ve seen it all before….”. After the second chorus, there’s a concisely constructed lead guitar solo, leading to the middle eight and one last blast of the chorus with some nice vocal extemporizations.

Overall, this is a great single from a professional singer and songwriter at the height of his artistic powers. Showing his wealth of experience as a writer combined with the kind of distinctive lead vocals and slick modern production that radio loves, this song will be popular with his already existing fans and it should make him a whole lot more.

 

VERDICT: 8.7 out of 10

Alex Faulkner

 

Listen here:

ALBUM REVIEW: Good News by Will Adams

P1060266.JPG

 

Will Adams is an alternative folk singer songwriter hailing from New York. I don’t have many background details to convey on this enigmatic artist, but I can tell you that artistically he lies halfway between the folk legends Nick Drake and Cat Stevens. His music is stripped down to just his vocals and acoustic guitar, giving it an immediate intimacy and warmth.

As a songwriter, he has been prolific. In 2007, he released his marathon 23 track debut album Time Lost and Found, following up with Little Brother, Big Sister in 2008 and The Ballad of Reginald Fessenden the following year. Since then he has released a steady stream of singles and this album, Good News, marks his first full length release for a while.

From the first seconds of opening track Magic Garden, with its crystal clear, finger picked acoustic guitar and gentle, emotive vocals, the listener realizes they’re in the hands of a very fine talent. Certainly, the obvious comparison to make is with the aforementioned Nick Drake and there are undoubtedly some similarities; Adams has that same purely poetic quality that manifests in Drake’s finest work and a penchant for alternate guitar tunings.

But whereas poor Nick viewed the world through a deeply melancholy lens as opposed to rose-tinted glasses, Will Adams has an innate optimism and understated joy in his music. Magic Garden encourages appreciating what we have and seizing the day in a poignant way: “Before it’s too late to play these silly games, before we’re old and grey and cannot say our names….”.

Second song Where The Wind Will Blow has another gorgeous, lilting finger-picked  progression and is full of finely drawn and vivid lyrical imagery: “All along the river, the blue ray birds are flying by, across the cornfields and down the lane the farmer walks home in the rain…”. It’s another touching song about not knowing where life will take us.

The following She’s Partial To Fruity Drinks, as the title implies, is rather lighter in tone, painting a portrait of a woman that made me think of the mysterious female characters in Dylan songs like She Belongs To Me and Sad Eyed Lady of The Lowlands. The dry humour in the lyrics acts as a nice counterpoint to the more serious songs on the album: “She likes to go diving in out of town dumpsters, she lives in a house that looks like the Munsters….”.

This character continues straight into the next song, We’ve Been Conned, deepening the detail of this endearingly eccentric character: “She’s good at clearing up messes wearing fancy dresses…”. Fifth track Bread Pudding is built around a lovely descending chord progression and it’s another strangely affecting song about something simple, the eating of a pudding. It’s the measure of an artist to take the mundane and make it seem beautiful.

The next two songs, Prayer For A Homeless Man and Prayer For Frey, are both heartwarming tales, with the former a particularly moving depiction of living homeless and the importance of basic human compassion: “I turned and looked into my pocket and put ten dollars in his hand.…”.

Eighth song Longer Way Home is one of the more melancholy moments, conjuring up the sombre mood of a late night. But the Cat Stevens-esque world wonder is suitably restored on the final track, A Glorious Gift: “Let the guardian angels pick up the pieces….”. This is the ultimate message of the whole album, the dwelling on the light in the midst of darkness and making the most of our lives.

Overall, this is a wonderful collection of songs that work both separately and as a cohesive whole. As a songwriter, Will Adams has found his own niche combining the delicate poeticism of Nick Drake and Joni Mitchell, with the evergreen joie de vivre of Cat Stevens yet also the timeworn wisdom of Paul Simon and Dylan. In these times of internecine strife, this music seems like a glorious gift indeed.

 

VERDICT =  8.9 out of 10

Alex Faulkner

Listen here:

ALBUM REVIEW: Shine by Nelson King

Shine_Cover_spotify-1024x1024.jpg

http://www.nelsonking.net

Nelson King is a singer/songwriter in the acoustic rock genre, hailing from Brighton, England. As a songwriter, he has been highly prolific in the last decade, releasing a huge amount of solo material recorded in his home studio, from his 2010 album Real to last year’s album Larger Than Life. His style is traditional in some ways, yet he’s forged is own inimitable sound and style.

This album, Shine, consists of nine tracks and begins with the fine opener Falling. From the first lines, it’s obvious that there’s a truth and honesty in his songwriting lacking in most modern music: “You’re in the village of the damned, where every door is jammed…”. Nelson has a perfect voice for this kind of material; it’s emotive, weathered and authentic, helping bring the sincerity of the lyrics to life.

He has a fine gift for memorable melodies, evidenced by the passionately performed ballad Colour Me. With just vocal and guitar, he keeps you gripped for the duration. Third track Shine On has understandably been chosen as a single, with its instantly memorable title hook. It has shades of Lennon, Springsteen and Dylan whilst still coming across as distinctly himself, and its perhaps the most life affirming song on the album.

We Will Overcome is another fine ballad with Lennon-esque overtones (circa his solo period) an inspiring message: “We will overcome all the wrongs that have been done.…”. A poignant and powerful song. The Brightest Light That Shines is a distinct change of pace, a brooding rocker with a modern vibe that brought to mind Noel Gallagher’s early solo material.

This Song is the true classic of the album, for me. With a simplicity that the best songs seem to have, it lies halfway between The Kinks and The Beatles and that’s a glorious place to be. Based around a descending chord sequence, he delivers a moving ode to devotion and creativity inspired by love. Surely a potential single.

Another Day offers a different flavour, a folk/country song with another uplifting message: “After all the hammer blows, you get up again…”. Shining Hearts is Nelson at his most Dylan-esque and reflective, a testament to the tenacity of the human spirit captured in lines like: “Come a long way together, shining hearts that we see…”.

The final song Anyway, carries on the same wistful mood, this one with a more ragged feel and short bursts of harmonica. It’s a fitting way to finish, with the music reaching a pinnacle of sonic colour featuring bluesy piano, acoustic and electric guitar, pulsating bass and wailing mouth organ. Real music.

Overall, this is a highly recommended album from a very gifted and experienced songwriter who deserves much respect for his unremitting devotion to his craft. With a worldly wisdom borne from experience and a fine command of his art, Nelson King can add his name to the pantheon of first rate British songwriters.

 

VERDICT: 8.6 out of 10

Alex Faulkner

Listen here: