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  • PA Musician Magazine

CD Reviews - May 2021

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BUCKSKIN WHISKEY – ROLL ON EP (no label) Southern-fried rock and outlaw country thrive on the five tracks of Roll On, the debut EP from Harrisburg-based rebel rockers Buckskin Whiskey. Formed in 2019, Buckskin Whiskey reprises the classic guitar-army rowdiness and hard Southern rock tradition first distilled in the 1970s by names like Lynyrd Skynyrd, Blackfoot and Molly Hatchet, blended with the outlaw spirit of names like David Allan Coe and Steve Earle. Lead vocalist and acoustic guitarist Josh Saussaman belts and growls his words with a raw, gritty edge and determination, flanked by lead guitarist Zach Beers, guitarist and steel player Koedee Gordon, bassist Bryan Sentz, keyboardist Alex Cassel and drummer Dan Almoney. This powerhouse lineup makes their presence immediately felt on the EP’s opening track, “Sleeping Around,” with its proud, hard-driving swagger and words about life on the road. Its narrative inspired by tales of the wild west, “Hell Hounds of El Dorado” displays a more sinister and dangerous vibe, its tension-and-release set-up perfectly executed by the band and Josh’s hearty vocal. Buckskin Whiskey’s country presence takes center stage on “Simple Kinda Life,” with Alex’s gentle organ groan and Koedee’s steel guitar coloring an upbeat number about back porch simple living. Danger returns on “Outta Tennessee,” a blues-rooted rocker about murder and running from the law; before the group’s surging title track epic, “Roll On” – about maneuvering on life’s highway – delivers a powerful close to the set. This EP is rock solid from start to end; the melodies connect, and the group’s arrangements and presentation pack punch and emotion into each song. Produced by Logan Summey and the group, and recorded, mixed and mastered at Rock Mill Studios in Mechanicsburg, this set sounds full-bodied, clear and sharp-edged. Buckskin Whiskey proudly carries the torch for classic-styled southern rock and outlaw country on Roll On, a strong opening chapter that leaves no doubt about what this group is musically all about. Good stuff! (The EP can be obtained on digital platforms and through Buckskin Whiskey’s website, www.buckskinwhiskey.com.)



FIGHTING ADAM – CRAZY (One Nine Records) Fighting Adam is the name of the solo recording project by Sugarloaf-based singer, songwriter and musician Adam Sorber. Adam devised the project after himself experiencing, and witnessing friends endure and exit, controlling and manipulative relationships. He observes and addresses such situations through the six original songs of Fighting Adam's debut album, Crazy. Adam does it all here; he wrote all the songs, sang and played all instruments, and produced, mixed, engineered and mastered the album at his own Studio One Nine. He does a good job; his melodies and lyrics are sturdy, his punchy blend of rock, pop and funk flavors sounds focused and consistent, and his voice and busy instrumental arrangements sound tight. The songs do explore the toxic side of relationships – opening the set, the title track “Crazy” presents allegations of a one-sided relationship. Deciding to exit a controlling relationship situation informs the words of the electronica-infused rocker “Chained,” while reaching the breaking point in an abusive relationship provides the theme of the hard-driving “Back Against the Wall.” "Hurricane" describes how unnecessary drama can turn a relationship stormy, the hard and crunchy “Fake” blasts drama queens and posers, while the funkier-edged “Sick” addresses plastic partners who forget their roots. The album also contains radio-friendly versions of “Crazy” and “Hurricane.” Adam sings his words with clarity, soul and style, and his song creations move and groove. The overall production of the album is clear, full and vibrant, and sounds cohesive from start to finish. Fighting Adam’s Crazy provides an impressive first chapter for Adam Sorber’s original music journey, and offers an infectious, energetic listen. (The album is available through Apple Music, Amazon and other digital platforms.)



ROYAL HONEY – HYPE, MONEY AND MISBEHAVIOR (The Vault Records) Pittsburgh fivesome Royal Honey came together in 2018, merging several seasoned musicians of the Steel City rock scene who had played in previous bands such as The Dirty Charms, The Cheats, The Science Fiction Idols, Kill Bossa and more. Their first album, Hype, Money and Misbehavior, finds Royal Honey firing away with rip-roaring, hard-edged rock’n’roll that tips its hat to the bad-boy rock of names like the Rolling Stones, New York Dolls, Guns N’Roses, AC/DC and more. Through six songs, the tandem of guitarists Eric Rodger and Dave Musick, bassist Greg Damjanovic and drummer Angel O slam boisterous backdrops and rhythms, setting the launching pad for singer and screamer Bobby C to belt out words about wild living and wild women. The first single from the set, “Dirty Romance,” storms out the gate with vintage rock’n’roll fury, while “The Noose” floors the accelerator as Bobby howls about getting out of town. With its nod to the Stones, “Once Again” merges blues-rock swagger with a slight country twang. The hard-driving instrumental “Honey on Your Thigh” gives both guitar players the opportunity to strut their stuff, leading into the sexy and sleazy rocker “Sex Kitten.” Royal Honey seals the deal with a closing bonus track, the fast-firing rock’n’roller “American Jive.” This set is action-packed from start to end, as Royal Honey keeps foot on the gas pedal and never lets up. The instrumental execution is tight and lively, and Bobby C’s polecat howl reaches high toward the heavens early and often. The melodies are simple, catchy and to the point. Produced by Eric Rodger and engineered, mixed and mastered by Bob McCutcheon at The Vault, this set pounds with crispness and edge. Royal Honey blends feverish rock’n’roll with spit and attitude on Hype, Money and Misbehavior, a sonic smack to the cranium made to be cranked loud through the speakers. (The album can be obtained through the group’s website, www.royalhoneyband.com, as well as through the group’s Bandcamp page and other digital platforms.)



THOMAS MICHAEL BRUNNER – HOT DOG BOY LOVES SAUCEY SAUSAGES EP (Canadian American Records) Say this much about longtime Altoona-bred music maker Thomas Michael Brunner – nobody will ever accuse him of being predictable. Through his musical journey, Tom has explored the experimental and thrashy sides of the heavy metal continuum in projects such as the Tom Brunner Group, Killer Elite and I.B.S.; and through his solo costumed personas – Elvis Chicken and Sharky – has dabbled in a wide tapestry of sounds spanning Hawaiian ukulele pop, Spanish guitar folk, roots rock’n’roll, novelty songs and more. Tom’s latest inception is Hot Dog Boy, where he decks out as – you guessed it – a walking and bass-slinging hot dog, complete with bun and mustard! This persona serves as the launch pad for Tom’s latest five-song musical adventure, Hot Dog Boy Loves Saucey Sausages, released through Joey Welz’s Canadian American Records label. At least based on these five tracks, the musical direction is back toward heavy-hitting rock and metal, featuring prominent full-distortion power chords, rumbling rhythms, and Tom's distorted voice as Hot Dog Boy, barking words about life as a hot dog. Besides vocals, Tom also plays all guitars and basses, with Stephen Ganong contributing drums. The overall flavor here suggests a surreal fusion of Ozzy-era Black Sabbath with shock-rockers the Mentors and thrash-rockers S.O.D./M.O.D. Where would a hot dog begin life? Tom answers that on the EP's opening track, “Meat Processing Plant,” celebrating Hot Dog Boy's birthplace along a prominent, Sabbathy riff. A brooding, doom-esque metal backdrop underscores the psychotic-flavored “Cocktail Weenies,” before Hot Dog Boy throws a musical curve ball with a decidedly metal-flavored take on that seventh-inning stretch classic “Take Me Out to the Ball Game.” Next is what sounds like a heavy-rocking commercial jingle in “Saucey Sausage,” before the EP wraps up with the abstract fast-food drive-thru window nightmare noise-fest “Do You Want Fries With That.” The delivery is noisy and chaotic, and distortion and reverb are present throughout. But this EP is nonetheless intriguing, as Thomas Michael Brunner uses his Hot Dog Boy persona to explore new sonic space and indulge a bizarre new lyrical angle. (The album can be obtained digitally through Amazon Music, and streamed through various online platforms.)



WILLIAM ROSE – LOVE & REVOLUTION (no label) A western PA native who now calls Kennett Square (Philadelphia area) his home base, William Rose has embarked on a solo direction following stints with such projects as Rose Project, Somerhill and Flying Islands. On his debut album, Love & Revolution, William blends rock, alternative pop, ambient and Americana influences over nine tracks. William sings, plays guitar and piano; assisted by bassist Jason Bafile, backing singer Anita Samis, and The Crew Of the Half Moon contingent of Dan Oatman on guitar, piano and bass plus drummer Jonathan Beard, who also recorded and engineered the album. William explores human feelings, relationships and moments through his lyrics. He recounts relationship mistakes on the powerful album-opener “Chasing Satellites,” with Jonathan's driving drumbeats giving the song added urgency and intensity. William explores life's challenges and confusion on the keyboard-driven, Beatle-esque “Telescope,” and seeks to make sense of the chaos on the alt-country rock-flavored “December.” He searches for adventure and meaning on the darker and ambient “San Juan,” and resolves to pull through when feeling defeated on the ambient alt-pop album closer “Already Broken.” Brighter moments abound on the punchy and melodic love song “Edge of the Earth” and the upbeat and reminiscent “Memory.” William and his cast generate different musical slants for each song, crafting innovative yet catchy melodies and keeping the album sounding fresh throughout. William sounds solid and steady on the vocal end, and instrumentally he and his cohorts sample with different tones and textures. The production gives the album consistent crispness, punch and fullness. Love & Revolution introduces William Rose's intriguing musical vision and creativity, as he skillfully mixes melodies, angles and words into a distinctive flavor all his own. (The album can be obtained or streamed through digital platforms, or through the website www.thewilliamrose.com.)

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