Thursday, September 25, 2014

Marshall Dane - One Of These Days

Marshall Dane's latest album One Of These Days is infused with some of the best aspects of classic country music that is so rarely present in the modern country music of our times. Too often country music is watered down and/or highly over-produced to play to a mainstream audiences. On top of that, the lyrics of modern country music are too often cliched, stereotyped, and just unoriginal. While this album still sounds very produced and polished, the "shiny finish" of the recordings doesn't detract from the exceptional heart and soul that Marshall Dane brings to his compositions.

Another side of this album is the rock edge that comes through so much of the excellently performed instrumentation. The first track on the album, "Take You Home to Mama," is immediately reminiscent of Bob Segar or CCR with a guitar riff worthy of any of your favorite classic rock songs. Marshall's crisp and strong vocals are backed by an impressive set of harmonies at the very first note and it sets the tone for the rest of the album. It should be noted that Marshall is a Canadian artist which results in an unexpected voice for country music, one that has just the right balance between twang, rock n' roll and soul.

"Stay Up Late" has lyrics that fall a bit too far on the "mushy" side of the spectrum for my tastes, playing somewhat like a rom-com for country music fans or country's answer to "Your Body is a Wonderland." That being said, the composition and and melodies are very infectious. As soon as the melody kicks in, it's pretty hard not to fall in line with this upbeat and romantic tune.

The title track, "One of These Days" is a very hopeful and powerful ballad with a carpe diem like message. The title is a bit misleading as you would think they're using this trope as a common colloquialism, but instead, the lyrics are saying that today, right now is "one of these days." It's a clever usage of such a common figure of speech, turning it on it's head to mean something totally different.

"Alcohol Abuse" is one of my favorite songs on the album. It is essentially a spin on Johnny Cash's "I've Been Everywhere" but instead of places, Marshall does a superbly entertaining job of listing every type of cocktail or alcoholic drink in existence.

"Work It Out" is one of the more soulful tracks on the album channeling some of my favorite artists like Otis Redding or Al Green. Clearly, the sound is much more of the country influence than either of those artists, but the lyrics, the instrumentation, and Marshall's subtle crooning on this song set it apart from much of the dominant sound (country and rock) on this album.

Overall, this album still has a bit too much material on the sentimental side to stay in rotation in its entirety for me. But there are a few stand out songs like "Take You Home to Mama," "Alcohol Abuse" and "Work It Out" that I would revisit again and again. Marshall brings soul to his particular brand of country and it really makes this release stand out in the saturated market of modern/pop country coming out these days. I love that Marshall doesn't need to lean on twang to do country his way.

Marshall Dane's One Of These Days is available on iTunes and all other digital music retailers.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

D.B. - "Goin' Full Speed"

Singer and guitarist D.B. brings us his latest single, a blues rock song, "Goin' Full Speed." The track was recorded in August at a studio in Vista, CA and is now available on CDBaby, iTunes, Spotify, Rhapsody and pretty much every other digital retailer.

The recording artist D.B. not only sings and plays guitar for this song but also mans the organ duties on this track as well. The song was written by Dwight Osbourne who does not perform on the track. Overall, "Goin' Full Speed" is a solid, classic rock tune with a  twinge of the blues on it. D.B.'s voice can be reminiscent of a country singer at times with a bit of a twang on it.

"Goin' Full Speed" has a simple narrative, but one that is effective. Essentially, it's a love song with an extended metaphor saying that this love makes the singer feel like he's really moving fast. It's easy to get into the groove of this song. The selection of instrumentation really creates a solid sound that is uplifting and gets your body moving. Overall, this is a feel good song, one that invites you to lay back in the cut and let go of your worries as D.B. takes you on a trip through a story of amazing love.

If you're looking for a track that brings back that classic blues rock sound, that will get your head nodding and your feet tapping, "Goin' Full Speed" will be a great addition to your music library. Head over to to pick up the track for just 99 cents. Also available online at almost every digital music retailer.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Jiggley Jones - A Mountain, A Struggle, A Tunnel, A Light

Jiggley Jones presents his debut album from Lamon Records, A Mountain, A Struggle, A Tunnel, A Light.

While this may be the first proper release from Jiggley Jones by his label, this musician brings many years of experience in his playing, songwriting and lyricism that make you feel like this "debut" has been long overdue. With Dave Moody, president of Lamon Records and a grammy nominated artist producing the record, you can hear the high production value that you might expect from a Nashville-based label. The instrumentation on this album prominently features Jiggley's acoustic guitar accompanied by a simple trio of piano, bass and drums on each song. Occasionally we get added accents like affected electric guitar, mandolin, banjo, dobro (or lap steel), orchestral string arrangements and upright bass. While it's obvious that Jiggley has the guitar chops to stand alone here, and I have to imagine he often gigs as a solo singer/songwriter, the added players on this album really bring Jiggley's compositions to life in a wholly different way.

For comparison, you can hear the highlight track from A Mountain, A Struggle, A Tunnel, A Light, "Walk On Me," as a solo performance in the YouTube video embedded below.

"Walk On Me" Solo Acoustic performance by Jiggle Jones during CMA Festival 2014:

Then you can listen to the studio version on the official music video here.

"Walk On Me" Official Music Video:

For me, the solo acoustic version carries a bit more visceral emotion when you hear Jiggley carrying the tune alone, but the studio arrangement for "Walk on Me" really highlights the talent that Dave Moody brings to the table. The resources of such an amazing music city like Nashville are not lost on the production values put to use on this album. The additions to the tracks seem simple until you really break them apart and hear how many different pieces were added. I could easily called it that "Nashville sound," but the producer's touch is much more subtle here. I would have to imagine some great A-list musicians were brought in for the sessions on these tracks, but I think that may only occur to the analytic ear. For the passive listener, the instrumentation and the arrangements are designed in a way that let Jiggley's songwriting and his voice breath throughout each song.

"Walk on Me" is the breakout song on the release, but there is still so much more to offer on A Mountain, A Struggle, A Tunnel, A Light. While "Walk On Me" is a darker song with deeper narrative, the rest of the album brings touches of jazz and rock within Jiggley's americana sound and more light-hearted narratives.

"Look What I Found" shifts the album into a jazzy, meandering composition about luck and love. As love songs or ballads can go, I'm glad to hear a track without the cheese. This composition feels real as Jiggley expresses how love sometimes just finds you in the least expected places. This narrative resonates with me, because so many times in life we don't have that perfect love story. We find our other half by living life and then, out of nowhere, there they are. The Wurlitzer-sounding electric piano in lieu of traditional acoustic piano gives this song a different feel than much of the album and feels more comfortable in that "jazzy" category.

"Hope In a Bottle" takes the album in a nearly evangelical direction. While the message is uplifting and and spiritual, it fringes on sounding like a religious song. Maybe I misinterpret the narrative, but lyrics like "praise the lord" and "open up your heart now and pray" just strike me as something I would hear at a progressive Sunday service. I don't mean to take a stance against that type of music, but the rest of the album strikes me more deeply than the lyrical content of this song. Unfortunately, after a few listens, I have to pretty much just gloss over this song.

Track four is similar in tone and narrative as the last song, but it strikes me as more genuine. Jiggley sings about how there is "Nothing So Natural" as the love of a parent for their child. This narrative of love sends a similar message in hopefulness and optimism that "Hope In a Bottle" tries to transmit, but somehow it works better. I think it's simply Jiggley's choice of verbiage that feels more natural (no pun intended... well kinda intended).

"Early Morning Light" surprised me by how easily the chorus became stuck in my head. Even days after listening, I found myself humming the melody of "Early Morning Light." This track is mellow and unassuming at first, but I think that is part of it's strength as a composition. The simple instrumentation of acoustic guitar, piano, and upright bass give this track a lot of breathing room. I feel the space within this recording is it's greatest strength. Jiggley's voice is allowed to shine with just the most subtle accents and accompaniment. The effect is resonant and it sticks with you long after you listen.

The final track, "Man on the Run" gives us our largest dose of rock within the americana palette that Jiggley champions on this release. This song creates a good deal of momentum within the overall landscape of the album and leaves you wanting more. This is one of the only tracks on the album that carries a solid backbeat throughout and feels like it could be played with a much heavier tone than is recorded here, but it still fits within Jiggley's overall sound. If the album were any longer, this would be a great launching point into some more traditional rock songs or jam-worthy compositions. But, in the end, it's also a great point to leave the listener hanging. With the bookend of "Man on the Run," the album feels like a real progression. And once it's done, you kinda just want to hear some more Jiggley songs.

As a "debut," A Mountain, A Struggle, A Tunnel, A Light is a nice little porthole into the world of Jiggley Jones. The album gives us a very professionally framed serving of the years of experience that Jiggley brings to the songwriting table. While most of the compositions are thoughtful and very well played, the biggest miss on this album is the lack of composed endings for these songs. Nearly every song carries out through the verse or chorus to a nice little fizzle. The musicians hold out a chord or Jiggley lets the last note of the melody carry over into silence at the end of almost every song. As a whole, this may be the only downside of this album: the lack of a clincher. We're always left wanting a little more. But, maybe this is a good thing, because if Jigglely's past is any indicator, there is surely much more to come.

You can find Jiggley Jones - A Mountain, A Struggle, A Tunnel, A Light on iTunes.