Haiku of contrition:

Brandon Santini
And Jeff Jensen. Together.
Lived up to my dreams.

Artist: Tennessee Redemption
Album: Tennessee Redemption
Release date: September 2019

Cover of Tennessee Redemption album.
Cover of Tennessee Redemption album.

The deal. Albums can break your heart. Even ones you haven’t heard yet. Sometimes you want so much from a new release — you’re just so excited — that it’s tough for the artist to deliver on the expectations. I didn’t stop to consider this before I listened to Tennessee Redemption’s self-titled debut. Tennessee Redemption is harmonica-ist/singer Brandon Santini and Americana stalwart guitarist Jeff Jensen. I’m a huge Santini fan so I was psyched to see him working with Jensen. …

Haiku of contrition:

Sean Pinchin’s Bad Things
Is actually good stuff.
Don’t trust the title.

Artist: Sean Pinchin
Album: Bad Things
Release date: March 1, 2019

Cover of Sean Pinchin’s Bad Things
Cover of Sean Pinchin’s Bad Things

The deal. As someone who came of age as a college radio DJ, I developed a certain distrust of anything too poppy. And even now, over twenty years later, I still reflexively bristle at anything with just a whiff of being too radio friendly. But maybe I’m finally starting to mellow. Because Sean Pinchin’s Bad Things is blues rock I’d be comfortable hearing on the radio (before iHeartMedia destroyed the form, of course).

Pinchin is Canadian, so perhaps the Americana label doesn’t apply, but the singer/slide guitarist certainly has a firm handle on the roots sound. He has a surprisingly sweet voice that works well against heavy blues grooves and howling slide that’s like a wolf during a full moon. Pinchin does a great job balancing familiar blues riffs against rock beats and uses an energy that’s practically metal. He also keeps things accessible, but not dumb, which is what sparked the radio thought. …

Haiku of contrition:

Time waits for no one.
Except Reverend Peyton.
They seem pretty tight.

Artist: The Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band
Album: Poor Until Payday
Release date: October 5, 2018

Cover of their album.
Cover of their album.

The deal. There’s the story, perhaps apocryphal, about a drunken W.C. Fields falling down a flight of stairs and, upon hitting the actual-if-not-metaphorical bottom, declaring the tumble a success, since he hadn’t spilled his drink. It’s certainly a sad story, but it also demonstrates the fine line between raw and sloppy. Raw is careening down stairs. Sloppy is breaking glass along the way. …

Haiku of contrition:

Blues. Rock. Grunge. New Wave. Tokyo Tramps have it all. Except Reggaeton.

Artist: Tokyo Tramps
Album: If I Die Tomorrow
Release date: October 15, 2018

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The deal. It might be hyperbolic to say that one song can make an album, but a good opening track can certainly suck the listener in. So while I’m a fan of Tokyo Tramps’ If I Die Tomorrow, and enjoyed the entire record, “Flowing Water,” its first track, is what grabbed my attention and drove this review.

Tokyo Tramps are a Boston-based husband and wife grungy rock band. There’s lots of Jimi Hendrix inspired guitar riffs (courtesy of singer/guitarist/husband Satoru Nakagawa) and Mitch Mitchell-inspired drum rolls — the kind that go on so long, you almost feel yourself beginning to lose your balance (courtesy of Tim Carman). The band hits a very specific sweet spot in the overlap between 1990s grunge and 1970s blues rock. What keeps things from degenerating into fuzz is the group’s strong sense of song, and the all-too-occasional vocal contributions from singer/bassist/keyboardist/wife Yukiko Fujii. …

Haiku of contrition:

Walker and Brayshaw. A time-traveling duo? Or just cool music?

Artist: Wily Bo Walker and E D Brayshaw
Album: The Roads We Ride
Release date: March 15, 2019

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The deal. My wife is a huge Bob Dylan fan so I’ve come to appreciate Dylan and his music. And his voice. It’s easy to rag on his singing, because it’s different, but as you hear more and more of his work (and at this point, I’ve heard a lot), you come to appreciate its distinctiveness. It’s not about hitting notes or sounding pretty. Instead, the attraction is Dylan’s naturalness. His voice is his voice and he does nothing to alter it. Singer Wily Bo Walker is a similarly distinctive singer, his rasp equal parts Tom Waits and Leonard Cohen. …

Haiku of contrition:

Low key is not dull. Tolman is a natural. With nothing to prove.

Artist: Russ Tolman
Album: Goodbye El Dorado
Release date: April 19, 2019

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Image for post

The deal. I’m lucky to love my hometown of Queens, New York. I’ve read a fair amount of stuff written by people trying to escape where they’re from, and I just can’t relate. I can see the problems of Queens (not really — it’s perfect), but the benefits far outweigh the challenges for me (challenges? Or opportunities?). Consequently, I tend to identify with artists who love where they’re from, adopted homes or otherwise. Anecdotally, the hometown lovers seem to be people from the Los Angeles area (Red Hot Chili Peppers, Jane’s Addiction, Minutemen, and Charles Bukowski, for example). I’ve only been there once, so I don’t feel the pull of LA, but I respect the adoration. …

Haiku of contrition:

Hear So Sensitive.
It is synth pop with real soul.
Also, no keytar.

Artist: So Sensitive
Album: Bedroom Drama
Release date: August 2, 2019

Cover of Bedroom Drama album
Cover of Bedroom Drama album

The deal. Coming from a world of rock and blues, I take amplification for granted. While I enjoy acoustic artists, I love the sound of an electric guitar coming through an amp. It’s not about the effects. There’s just something about the electricity that you can hear — even with a relatively clean tone. I’ve come to learn that amplification is a controversial issue in classical music, with a concern that when there’s an intermediary between an instrument and the audience, like a microphone and speaker, that something precious is lost. It reminds me of the worries about CDs and MP3s versus vinyl, where there’s a similar apprehensiveness about getting a less-than-true sound. These ideas are rooted in truth, but also come from an inherent distrust of technology. There’s a feeling that the digital robs us of something real and organic. …

Haiku of contrition:

Painting song pictures.
Taking us to new places.
It is VR folk.

Artist: Erisy Watt
Album: Paints in the Sky
Release date: July 26, 2019

Erisy Watt album cover
Erisy Watt album cover

The deal. I’m always impressed by artists who can convey different states of mind. Giulia Millanta did a fantastic job conjuring different moods from song to song on her 2018 Conversations with a Ghost (my review is here). …

Haiku of contrition:

American sound.
Relaxing as a long drive.
Windmill hole-in-one.

Artist: Have Gun, Will Travel
Album: Strange Chemistry
Release date: July 12, 2019

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The deal. Workaholics, a guilty television pleasure of mine, once had a funny throwaway scene, the setup of which probably never mattered, featuring the three leads in a bald eagle-painted convertible, top down, Seven Mary Three blasting from the speakers, all drumming along to the tugboat of a song. “We are so American,” Adam DeVine tells his friends. “This is the most American thing we can do right now.” While American music is much more complicated than a simple chant over a simpler groove, there are some albums that simply resonate at a more American frequency. …

Haiku of contrition:
Castiglia rocks
With his vocals and guitar.
Lucky eleven?

Artist: Albert Castiglia
Album: Masterpiece
Release date: May 24, 2019

Cover of Albert Castiglia’s Masterpiece.
Cover of Albert Castiglia’s Masterpiece.

The deal. Not that all blues rock is predictable, but the genre lends itself to patterns. Structurally a blues is three chords in a set order and given there are only 12 notes in the chromatic scale, your options are quite literally finite. But more than the underlying musical structures, there are the expectations of the audience. You can have the bluesiest flute player in the world in your band, but a flute solo probably isn’t going to go over too well (with apologies to Jethro Tull). Which is why I loved Albert Castiglia’s Masterpiece. …


Steven Ovadia

Hockey lover. Linux lover. Music lover. I write about the latter two.

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