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Grover Anderson: From the Pink Room

April 25, 2017

Love can be a fickle mistress, filled with hope and expectation, fear and anticipation. Grover Anderson has found a way to tap into the journey almost everyone experiences in his new album From the Pink Room. This new acoustic album, released March 3, 2017, is a simple, sweet expression of how a skilled songwriter shares his perceptions acoustically with incredible ease.

As the story goes, the musician holed up in the back room of his house that is covered with pink striped walls. The concept of this album was born out of a meeting with a woman. She had been in a relationship for seven years; the house’s previous owner had painted the room with the vibrant color. It is also known as the healing color for the heart chakra, making this album all the more special.

Anderson opens the album with “Evergreen” as an intentional hope for the future. The growth of something special is like the organic path of life. With exceptional talent, Anderson’s fingerpicking guitar fits the content. When telling a story like this, it could be easy to get lost, but Anderson paints a masterpiece landscape with the songs. Harry Nilsson comes to mind in “Parallel,” challenging listeners to come along for the ride, soulful and real. The lyrical landscape here is full of imagery, and the sensory exploration of “Natural Bridges” is no exception. Raw and unapologetic, it is a challenge to get real. It is also a tribute to the landmark that graces Calaveras County, where Anderson grew up–undoubtedly a hangout for the locals.

The great thing about music that fits into the Great American Songbook is that there is depth and substance in telling the American experience. This album is no exception, painting a picture through the color spectrum. “Holes” hits the dark places between relationships, often painful and uncertain. Part of the experience with this auditory picture book is the cover art design and artwork by Alexis Wagner; the color spectrum is the left to right vision that parallels the album. “Little Spoon” is the uptempo romp that square dances its way through the middle of the album–a heartbeat of hope and joy.

It is not strange how art is shaped by real life. “Willie Nelson” and “For Goose” both touch on grief and the power it has over a life left to live. Haunting and hopeful, the two songs contrast each other like complimentary colors in a garden of flowers. What lessons are learned is the message, but the memory is the real foundation. “Boulder” is one of the absolute standouts on an exceptional indie acoustic guitar release. In covering The Smiths’ classic “There Is A Light That Never Goes Out,” Anderson shows off a stellar mix of simplicity and power. Haunting and painful, the song resonates with every and any broken heart. Emotions bleed through the vocal delivery from Anderson.

A full fourteen songs includes “Old Songs” as a mash-up of other music, creative and fresh. Taking it back into the breakup of love, “Ember” is a rip-to-shreds appraisal of a she-devil mankiller. A lyrical masterclass, it is a joy to feel the burn. “The Best You Can” has also found its way onto From The Pink Room, taking everything full circle. Its acoustic elegance is wrapped in a neat package. A fourteen-song journey through the spectrum of emotions as well as color, this album is Americana Country at its finest.–Lisa Whealy

Prana Crafter’s psychedelic guitar bliss

April 18, 2017

Prana Crafter’s psychedelic bliss always leaves me wanting more. After reviewing last year’s album, Rupture of Planes, I could not wait to get my hands on what William Sol had brewing next. And MindStreamBlessing was worth the anticipation. Just as the album’s title suggests, the tracks take me on a matchless journey, with no vocals and quite the range of instruments. Each instrument used brings its own flavor to the collection of six songs.

Released last month, MindStreamBlessing is an entrance to a world I wish I knew more intimately. The tracks feel playful yet seductive, as they show us a peek into the Washington woodlands. The first song, “At Agartha’s Gate,” is the most inviting, as the acoustic and electric guitar sweetly set the mood. As the album progresses, I notice that since this collection contains no vocals, the instruments are left to tell the stories, akin to orchestral works. Each time a particular instrument–like the electric guitar, drums, or synth–appears, they are like actors on a stage. For example, the intricate electric guitar work that is sprinkled in this first song fully grows into its soulful skin by the last track.

Similarly, the acoustic guitar that starts off the album returns in the title song “MindStreamBlessing” to show off more of its sassy personality. With each track, the first guitar or bass lays the rhythmic foundation so that a second, often electric, guitar can enter in and take the lead. That second guitar usually comes in and sings a soulful, jazzy tune. Similar to Jimi Hendrix, you never know when the lead electric guitar plans on ending its rant.

Percussion is also a great addition to this album. In “As the Weather Commands,” the beating of the drums tells a story of movement. Picture someone playing wooden drums for a show, perhaps snakes coming out of baskets. Then, my favorite track off the album: “Luminous Clouds” opens up with what sounds like a recording of the night woodland wind and slowly builds until about halfway in, where a tambourine, guitar, and drum circle combination immediately thrust my thoughts to the middle of the woods, dancing around a bonfire. And since that’s one of my favorite places to be, I certainly don’t mind that.

At large, there’s a cyclical nature to MindStreamBlessing. Each track feels orchestrated by jazz musicians. Even when the lead electric guitar does go off on soulful displays of its power, it always seems to cycle back to an established rhythm, giving the album an effect of falling slowly down a concentric helical spring. Finally, the organ-like synth sounds which make a continual appearance throughout the collection add just the right amount of eeriness to complete the album’s wall of sound.

Prana Crafter’s MindStreamBlessing proves itself as another magical journey, clearly constructed by an adventurous soul.–Krisann Janowitz

EP: Matt Record’s Black Swan

April 6, 2017

Those with a fondness for acoustic guitar work combined with simple, straightforward songwriting will find great satisfaction in singer, guitarist and songwriter Matt Record. Record has developed his craft over the last decade and a half, covering some of the most fertile musical regions in the United States. Originally from Plymouth, Indiana, he has been blowing on the wind of his music from there to Chicago, Indianapolis, Oregon, Los Angeles, and London. With the Black Swan EP, Record delivers a fresh take on life that settles firmly in the country and folk genres that many have grown to love.

The Black Swan EP is “a mixture of some songs I’ve written over the last 12-14 years that fit together very well and were more acoustic driven,” says Record. Not only did the songs take time, they were written in four states and two incredibly fertile music scenes. Once it was finally recorded, the release featured Record (Martin D-35 acoustic guitar, electric guitar, bass, vocals), Andrew Madden (lap steel, keyboards, electric guitar), Paul Duda (bass), and Stephan Kohnke (drums and percussion).

The five songs of the EP are masterfully sequenced to feel like a sit down around a campfire or a fireplace. Opening with an aptly-named song featuring a simple sound, “Beautiful” is a love song singing the praises of real life with an almost Neil Young falsetto. Flowing from one song to the next can be a challenge, but it’s not hard for Record. “Black Swan” has an authentic “home, home on the range” feel punctuated by sparingly-used electric guitar. The newest song of the EP serves as a perfect title track. Restraint in the mix is key here for sure.

Record then strolls into “Insomnia,” which is reminiscent of some of the best from Charles Ellsworth and the Dirty Thirty mixed by the great Bob Hoag. “Dear Lord” firmly embraces the sentimentality of roots Americana, as the song fits neatly within the story Record is telling. The five-song collection ends with “Saddle Up,” which features the most rock vibes of the EP. The song ties together everything into a concise picture.

Great music can take sometimes take a lifetime in its creation; sometimes there’s an instantaneous connection to something real. Like the real-life landscapes that inspired this musical picture that he paints, Matt Record is the real deal here. Matt Record’s Black Swan EP, the follow-up to the 2010 release Kickbush, is out April 7th 2017 on Captain Beardo Records.–Lisa Whealy

Stephen Carradini and friends write reviews of bands that are trying to make the next step in their careers.

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