Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Wayne Hancock-Viper of Melody

Wayne Hancock
Viper of Melody
purchase here

Like any good Southerner, there are a few things that I have no shame in taking a shine to. One being whiskey, the second is wearing cowboy boots year round, and the third is good country music. I am not talking about CMT, Nashville FM, or pop country. I am talking about the real deal country music that makes you want to throw on your cowboy hat and Sunday finest, grab your gal and head to the nearest honky tonk for a night of cold beer, two-stepping, and everything in between. Thank God there are still a few good souls still making a racket that has the twang, attitude, and gumption to still be considered true country music, artists who are keeping the sound and genre alive for those of us who prefer things the way they once were. A legend in the alternative world of country and rockabilly music, if there is such a thing, is Wayne "The Train" Hancock keeps the true country spirit alive with others including Hank Williams III. Hancock's newest album, Viper of Melody, is indeed some of the sweetest sounding music this year that will keep the toes tapping and glasses full.
Described as the "world's finest purveyor of juke joint swing", the album proves that he is indeed just that. This album swings its ass off and would it damn near impossible for anyone to sit still during a listen, especially in a juke joint. Vipers of Melody is the perfect backdrop for sitting belly up to the bar in dim lit room, illuminated only by the neon beer signs and swirling jukebox lights, and enjoying only the finest of frosty beverages with your best gal or gals. The music on this album is not "outlaw country" per say, but most definitely the music of outlaws. This music swings, Texas swings that is, and is not jazz by any stretch of the imagination. Mix in the perfect amount of blues and rockabilly influence and there you have the noise of The Train. If I had to sum up Hancock's sound with Viper's of Melody, I would have to say it sounds like Hank Williams Sr. fronting a paired down version of Bob Wills' Texas Playboys. The Train's voice has the perfect amount of twang and old-time grit to bring to mind the aforementioned godfather in country music in addition to other legends including Jimmie Rogers. Every song on Vipers of Melody except one was penned by Hancock himself and further proves his greatness in the songwriting arena. These are songs of good times and bad, heartbreak and hell-raising all bundled into one package that is surely to be one of 2009's greatest releases. Highlights for me include the boogie-woogie of "Jump the Blues" and "Freight Train Boogie", and the weeping steel lines and heartbreak of Jimmy Campbell's "Midnight Stars and You."
Do yourself a favor and get this record. -Andrew Bryant

Monday, May 4, 2009

Radio Moscow-Brain Cycles

Radio Moscow
Brain Cycles
purchase this album here

Ah, remember a day when rock and roll was in its prime and just plain sounded the way it should; a day when guitars weighed a ton, hair was long, and the amps had knobs that were as big as pie plates. This was a day when you could still hear the hiss of the 2 inch tape on albums and bands could venture to the heavy end of the spectrum and not scare off the good spirited masses who were merely looking for a new album to throw on the turntables, space out, and expand both their mind and musical pallets. Fortunately for us, there are still musicians out there who abide by these creeds of the late 60's and early 70's, and could easily be considered contemporaries of their heroes, keeping great rock and roll alive in a world in which the majority of popular music has gone to shit. Hailing from Ames, Iowa of all places, Radio Moscow is one of these bands that does things right, from playing through vintage gear and joining forces with Alive Records, a label that can do no wrong in my book. Their newest album out of the oven, Brain Cycles, is a step above their 2007 debut with a greater confidence in both song-writing and musicianship.
I might be beating a dead horse by comparing Radio Moscow to Hendrix, however there is no denying the obvious influence that this music has on this album, from the guitar leads, tones, and effect choices. At the same time, Brain Cycles reminds me a great deal of other behemoths from back in the day including Cream, Blue Cheer, and the Groundhogs. Front man and guitarist Parker Griggs comes from a school of thought in which fuzz and wah are kings and the guitars are loud. Its a good thing too, because this young man has massive chops and an ear for the way rock and roll songs should be written. Chalk another one up in Griggs' column for his percussive work on the album, playing all of the drum parts himself. This leads me to the question, what can't he play? No kidding, there are hundreds of artists out there that would kill to have drum sounds like this, part Mitch Mitchell, part Carmine Appice. On the low end of things, Zach Anderson's bass lines are prime, tasteful, and in the pocket, perfectly complementing the guitar and drum work at hand. Brain Cycles is all about the driving riffs and psychedelic swells that will make the brain swim, swirl with an Are You Experienced? production quality. In fact I would almost require it to ingest Brain Cycles via a great pair of headphones.
Let's raise our glasses once again to Alive Records for bringing another of this year's best to the listeners. And most definitely hats off to the Radio Moscow boys for tapping into something that was in or added to the water back in the days when rock and roll was all about throwing on the cans, lighting some incense, and freeing ones mind. -Andrew Bryan