CD Reviews - February 2021
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THE JEREMY EDGE PROJECT – THE JEREMY EDGE PROJECT (Deko Entertainment) Pennsylvania music followers have come to know Jeremy Edge over the past 25 years as the guitarist and driving force behind popular regional rock juggernauts Backstreet Law and Til December, and – more recently – nationally-acclaimed rockers Candlelight Red. Jeremy sets out to reconnect with his influences with his self-named project, The Jeremy Edge Project, and the project’s self-titled debut album channels those influences into a vibrant, powerful mixture. As he tips his hat to such influences as Jimi Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Jimmy Page, Billy Gibbons and others, the overall style here is a blend of hard rock, blues, metal and alternative flavors over the album’s ten tracks. Of course, Jeremy plays guitar throughout the album, and sings on the leadoff rocker “Firedancer” and the southern rock-flavored closer “Sunrise.” Bassist John DeLowery and drummer Dave Shaffer provide the rhythms, and Jeremy Baum colors the mixture with his Hammond B3 organ presence. And two guest singers – Crobot’s Brandon Yeagley and Dark New Day frontman Brett Hestla – split their vocal firepower across three songs each. Brandon displays his hearty howl on the bluesy love song “Sing My Blues,” the groove-driven rocker “Hot Lava” and the slower Led Zeppelin-toned blues-rocker “Lies,” where Jeremy is joined by blues guitar virtuoso Josh Smith. Brett flexes his pipes on the crunchy rocker “Holding In,” the milder-leaning “Indifferent” and the hard-grooving “Outlive Yesterday.” This is a strong album from start to end…The songs connect and the performances dazzle, from Jeremy’s precise and inspired guitar work to the robust contributions of his guests. Recorded and mixed by Grammy-nominated engineer Mike Feretti (who has worked with Warren Haynes and Sevendust), The Jeremy Edge Project sounds broad, clean and potent. In touching base with his influences, Jeremy Edge crafts a good-sounding album that should please fans of fundamental classic, blues and hard rock. (The album can be obtained through the website www.jeremyedge.hearnow.com.)
SINCERELY S.P.A.D.E. – FIRST CAPITAL’S FIRST KING (no label) Born in Philadelphia but now based in York, Michael Devonte Lee Hatcher battled and survived adversity early in life, and – adopting his hip-hop/rap artist alter ego Sincerely S.P.A.D.E. – faces his struggles, demons, critics and future on his latest album, First Capital’s First King. Through eight tracks, S.P.A.D.E. passionately recounts life’s adversities to assert his own individuality and establish his dream of rising above to bare his art and soul for others to experience and learn from. S.P.A.D.E. starkly documents his early struggles on the autobiographical passage “The Prodigy,” from being forced into manhood when his mother left him at age 3 to losing his father to incarceration, to street corner survival – “…swimming with the great whites (sharks)” and “running with the wolves.” On “Like Your Daddy,” dodging his father’s fate and becoming a teenage dad himself strengthens S.P.A.D.E.’s resolve to survive, better himself and provide for his own family. He acknowledges and leaves his own sins behind on “Big Dumb Young Boy,” learns from the mistakes of others on “Talk Heavy,” and acknowledges his own vulnerabilities on the album closer “S.P.A.D.E.” “Cause N Effect” makes the realization that a relationship needs to end, while sincerity and integrity are questioned on another relationship-themed track, “Insecurities.” And S.P.A.D.E. dresses down overhyped hip-hop wannabes on the album’s opening track, “Lies.” Sincerely S.P.A.D.E.’s performance is emphatic and heartfelt, with his intent and intensity driving each track. He displays a clear knack for timing and rhyming, as his cadences play off the rhythms and beats to create a true sense of beat poetry. Use of various vocal effects, female singing voice intros and outros, and echo chambers of voices (especially used for great effect on “Like Your Daddy”) all add depth and context to the presentation. The mixing is crisp and clean, with S.P.A.D.E.’s voice front and center, and the musical backdrops effectively supporting him. Real life is often the best inspiration for music, and Sincerely S.P.A.D.E.’s life experiences and lessons – and his sincere perspectives on them – make First Capital’s First King a compelling listen. (The album is available through Amazon, Pandora, Apple Music and other digital platforms.)
TIM WOODS – VORTEX (no label) Western PA music patriarch Tim Woods taps inspiration from the natural world and life’s journey on his latest album, Vortex. Tim crafts 10 songs rooted in rock, blues, folk and Americana music as – moved by a recent journey to the American Southwest – he explores his connections with Mother Earth and his philosophies about life moving forward. Helping Tim shape and bring his songs to life is Codetalkers co-founder Bobby Lee Rodgers, who plays guitar, bass, drums and keyboards, and also produced the album. The album’s mystic title song, “Vortex,” documents Tim’s journey to Sedona, Arizona and the sensation of natural energy he experienced while there, which then triggered explorations of his own life and purpose; Tim’s sons, Derek and Ryan Woods, chime in on backing vocals here. Other songs tie into this central theme as well; tapping an Allman Brothers-type vibe, “Sometimes” suggests accepting what life offers rather than hanging on to the past, while “Destination Unknown” – with piano accompaniment by renowned Marshall Tucker Band and Charlie Daniels producer and collaborator Paul Hornsby – celebrates life as a continuous journey rather than a destination. Playful blues provides the vehicle for Tim to muse about his own carefree attitude on “I Don’t Know Yet,” while raucous rockabilly paces Tim’s advice to grab life by the horns and make your own difference on “This Mess.” Tim delivers a feisty funk workout on “Some of Your Love,” paints an instrumental picture of the southwestern landscape on “Sage,” and crafts a tranquil and reminiscent ballad with “Take Me Away.” Tim closes the album with a message to protect one of Earth’s most vital resources for future generations on “Water Is Life.” Tim’s voice and words sound hearty and heartfelt, and the arrangements and musicianship bring forth the full power of each song. The overall production sounds smooth and consistent, broad and full. Like the experience that inspired it, Vortex itself evokes a soulful energy, as Tim Woods makes us feel the fascination and wonder of his journeys. (The CD can be obtained through Tim’s website, www.timwoodsmusic.com.)
JS BLUES – JS BLUES (Razberry Productions) JS Blues is the blues project incarnation of Jim Thorpe native Johnny Searfoss, who has been making music since 1978. JS Blues’ self-titled CD introduces us to a smooth-sounding, well-rounded blend of blues-infused styles over 10 tracks, including five new songs and select tunes from Johnny’s two previous albums under his own name. Johnny sings, plays guitar and bass, assisted by seven other musicians – including drummers Chris Condel and Nick Lauro, keyboard players Matt McGasko and Harry Sipler, backing singers Joe Bogwist and Carolyn Falzone, and clarinet player Mike Pryor. JS Blues gets down to business on the opening number, “A Good Good Woman,” a slow and slinky blues display where Johnny gets to stretch out and showcase his guitar talents with nice solo displays. He and bandmates step up the tempo on the rollicking swing/jump blues of “Roll Me Over, one of two carryover songs from Johnny’s self-titled 2013 album; the other being the hard-edged blues-rocker “Blindsided Blues.” Johnny also resurrects three numbers from his 2015 album Bring Back My Radio: the slow and soulful “A Beautiful Sunny Day,” the delta blues-geared “Devil on Sunday” and the funk-edged “On the Run.” Of the other new songs, “Let’s Have a Party” exudes a playful and upbeat vibe, “Social Media Blues” shares Johnny’s witty observations on modern-day communication and its users and abusers, and Mike’s clarinet talents take the spotlight on the jazz-flavored instrumental album closer “Sometimes I Wonder.” Johnny also gives a reverent update of Bill Withers’ 1971 soul/blues classic “Ain’t No Sunshine.” Johnny demonstrates a good singing voice with range and clarity, and displays clean and tasteful guitar work that serves the flavor of each song. His support cast gives solid performances as well, with both keyboardists coloring the songs with piano and organ textures, and the rhythm players keeping the paces steady and in the pocket. Recorded and mastered at SI Studios in Old Forge, and engineered by Joe Weglesski and Tom Borthwick, this album sounds clear, smooth, balanced and consistent from start to end. JS Blues is, simply put, a fundamentally solid and tasty blues album, showing Johnny Searfoss’ skills and versatility; clearly a satisfying listen. (The album can be obtained through the website www.jsblues.com.)