CD Reviews - November 2019
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ROADKILL – STILL ALIVE AND…WELL? (no label) “Rot and Roll” has returned…The band that extolled the virtues of alcohol consumption on Independence Day, celebrated launching golf balls deep into the forest, championed the cause of the romantically-disadvantaged on Valentine’s Day, created a satirical metalcore ode to Oreo cookies, expressed the desire to break up with Alanis Morisette, and…lest you forgot…turned a beloved barroom-caliber dartboard into local Christmas season lore, while unleashing wrath upon the rotund, red-clad bearded elf who dared to take said dartboard back to the North Pole…returns after nearly a decade hiatus from the central PA music scene. Roadkill is back with a brand new roster and a new album, called Still Alive and…Well? Remaining founding member, ringleader, singer, bassist and sage Greg Majewsky has assembled a new mach edition of Roadkill, with guitarist Tommy Raab and drummer Clayton Miller. It doesn’t take long into the CD to realize that Greg’s wit, sarcasm and sense of (mostly self-deprecating) humor are still intact, and the disc’s eight tracks are split between rocking numbers and comic relief. On the album’s spoken prelude, “A Worthless History Lesson,” a senile duffer character recounts how he almost ended Roadkill on a foggy road years ago but one member got away (we presume Greg), leading into the death metal-flavored “Your Blood Is My Wine.” From there, Roadkill gives us the first of two contradictory numbers, the lengthy jam “Happy Blues”; the second such number, the tongue-in-cheek “Sad Polka,” happens later in the disc. The album’s centerpiece has to be the rowdy, stomping anthem “American Slob,” where Greg proudly celebrates messiness, laziness and the slovenly lifestyle; it recalls Denis Leary’s 1993 comedy-rock hit “A**hole,” and builds into raucous gang shout choruses during the song’s homestretch. The title track “Still Alive and…Well?” finds Greg contemplating about his role in the grand scheme of things against a bluesy-grooving backdrop. Greg snarls at shady preachers on the disc’s last song, the rocking “You Should Be Ashamed,” before a cameo by the aforementioned old man character closes out the set. The band is solid, and can still generate loud and rowdy blues-based rock as before. Greg’s boisterous personality is still front and center, but it is interesting to hear him in a more thoughtful vein on the album’s title track. Recorded at Bill Filer’s Audible Images Recording in Port Matilda, this set sounds balanced, full and raw, allowing Greg and Roadkill’s three chords and the truth to shine out, warts and all. Still alive and well after 30 years of rot and roll, Roadkill brings ‘terrible music, terrible singing and unfunny jokes’ (Greg’s description, not this reviewer’s) back to the forefront on Still Alive and…Well? Long live rot and roll! (The CD can be obtained at shows through Roadkill’s Facebook page, “Roadkills30th.”)
AFRO N’AT – AFRO N’AT EP (no label) Launched two years ago. Johnstown’s Afro N’at has fast become popular throughout western and central PA with their hot fusion of funk, jazz and African musical flavors. The group’s self-titled, all-instrumental, four-song EP gives listeners a lively introduction into their musical world. Afro N’at is led by the powerful horn section of sax man Alec Zander Redd, trombone and euphonium player Mere Kae Redd, trombonist Tom Buchko and trumpet player Rich Williams; with Matt Partsch playing guitar, Randy Penrod on bass and Elias Ghantous on drums and percussion. The group lays down captivating, infectious grooves that quickly hook listener attention, and build into vigorous blends of horn, guitar and percussion savvy. The disc-opener “Fuzzy Pharaoh” starts out with a reserved Latin flair, before escalating into a busy groove of full horns, drums and hand percussion. “Cannon” and “The Wind-Up” provide energetic funk-jazz workouts that mix broad group passages with instrumental solo highlights. The disc-finisher “Remedo” quickly establishes a tricky time signature, and escalates this cadence toward a soaring climax; the cycle then repeats, with interesting solo highlights and a well-placed stoppage keeping this musical journey compelling throughout. Enthusiasm and fun permeate all four tracks, and it’s easy to sense the happy and adventurous vibes Afro N’at bring throughout the set. The talent level and coordination are strong, and the solo displays are ambitious and heartfelt. Produced by Daniel Blake at Schoolhouse Recording Studio in Greensburg, this EP sounds full, balanced and vibrant throughout, with each instrument well represented in the mix. This EP provides a fun listen, and a strong introductory glimpse into Afro N’at’s moving and grooving musical world. (The EP can be obtained at the group’s shows, also through CD Baby and other online platforms.)