ABOUT RAR: For those of
you new to this site, "RAR" is Rick Alan Rice, the publisher
of the RARWRITER Publishing Group websites.
Use this link to visit the
RAR music page, which features original music
compositions and other.
ATWOOD - "A Toiler's Weird Odyssey of Deliverance"-AVAILABLE
NOW FOR KINDLE (INCLUDING KINDLE COMPUTER APPS) FROM
CCJ Publisher Rick Alan Rice dissects
the building of America in a trilogy of novels
collectively calledATWOOD. Book One explores
the development of the American West through the
lens of public policy, land planning, municipal
development, and governance as it played out in one
of the new counties of Kansas in the latter half of
the 19th Century. The novel focuses on the religious
and cultural traditions that imbued the American
Midwest with a special character that continues to
have a profound effect on American politics to this
day. Book One creates an understanding about
America's cultural foundations that is further
explored in books two and three that further trace
the historical-cultural-spiritual development of one
isolated county on the Great Plains that stands as
an icon in the development of a certain brand of
American character. That's the serious stuff viewed
from high altitude. The story itself gets down and
dirty with the supernatural, which inATWOOD
- A Toiler's Weird Odyssey of Deliveranceis the
outfall of misfires in human interactions, from the
monumental to the sublime.The
book features the epic poem"The
well as artwork by New Mexico artist Richard
Meets Larry McMurtry
I am offering another
novel through Amazon's Kindle Direct Publishing service.
Cooksin is the story of a criminal syndicate that sets its
sights on a ranching/farming community in Weld County, Colorado,
1950. The perpetrators of the criminal enterprise steal farm
equipment, slaughter cattle, and rob the personal property of
individuals whose assets have been inventoried in advance and
distributed through a vast system of illegal commerce.
It is a ripping good yarn, filled
with suspense and intrigue. This was designed intentionally to
pay homage to the type of creative works being produced in 1950,
when the story is set. Richard Padilla
has done his usually brilliant work in capturing the look and feel of
a certain type of crime fiction being produced in that era. The
whole thing has the feel of those black & white films you see on
Turner Movie Classics, and the writing will remind you a little
of Elmore Leonard, whose earliest works were westerns.
Use this link.
EXPLORE THE KINDLE
If you have not explored the books
available from Amazon.com's Kindle Publishing
division you would do yourself a favor to do so. You
will find classic literature there, as well as tons
of privately published books of every kind. A lot of
it is awful, like a lot of traditionally published
books are awful, but some are truly classics. You
can get the entire collection of Shakespeare's works
for two bucks.
Amazon is the largest,
but far from the only digital publisher. You can
find similar treasure troves atNOOK
Barnes & Noble site),Lulu,
Sales on the Side
As the music industry has
shrunk in size, declining 5 to 6 percent each year since 2000, the
business of selling CDs at live performances, as an added revenue stream
as with t-shirt and poster sales, has taken on a new level of
importance, if only to the artists producing these products. But one
wonders if there is any purpose to it beyond further subsidizing an
opportunity to play in a club. Here, RARWRITER.com reviews examples of
the independent label CD offerings that typify the small-market genre.
Let the Music Rise:
Volker Strifler's claim to fame has been as a cohort of
the Ford Brothers' efforts (guitarist Robben, of Joni Mitchell and other
name associations, harmonica-playing brother Mark, and drummer Patrick) and as
the leader of the Volker Strifler Band. Volker is excellent in all of
those roles, a German-born blues machine who totally gets the American
southern influence on his primary form of expression. Volker plays
killer guitar and growls vocals like a guy who has cotton picking in his
background. All that said, RARWRITER.com was most excited about his solo
effort of earlier this year, Let the Music Rise. Self-produced
apparently as a labor of love, Volker stretches out on this album in
truly inspired ways, from the instrumentation he chooses to the range of
material, which is broad and personal. Unfortunately, the CD copy
RARWRITER.com received for review was apparently damaged so that we
could listen to only snippets of each song. We have no idea if this CD
is available anyplace, but perhaps that makes it all the better, like a
rare pearl that can only exist as legend. Volker Strifler may not have
much to do with music today in any commercial sense, but more is the
pity. He strikes us as the real deal, an honest-to-god bluesman whose
musical virtuosity is equaled by his innate soulfulness.
Running on Gravity:
Dennis Wanebo is a bright guy from Boulder, Colorado, a
former lawyer whose passion for music led him to pursue it full time
following a health scare. After
releasing a couple CDs with his band Martian Acres, Running on
Gravity (a typical Wanebo-style allusion, and a typical humor trope)
is a solo effort that features Wanebo's innate sense of musical
sophistication and melodic and lyrical nuance. His music, often
characterized by lovely harmonies - Wanebo sings particularly
effectively in his higher registers, and works well with others - is
completely adult in subject and scope, which puts it in this
category of subsidiary products. There are radio-friendly tunes here,
such as "Mostly Lost", and there are ageless sections ("Queen of the
Blues") when no one would know that Wanebo is no 21-year old, but radio
is non-existent in the 21st Century anyway and was never smart enough to
support a Dennis Wanebo, save possibly for a few early golden years of
nascent FM. RARWRITER.com admires Wanebo greatly, but suspects that
commercially speaking he has every reason to make that face he is making
on his most recent CD release. We look that way a lot of the time. This
CD is exceptionally well performed and produced, and at times one hears
a classic like Graceland in this work, making it seem that if a
visionary producer were to commandeer Wanebo's song selections and
direct him down a principal path, that there could be something truly
great at work here. Unfortunately, the market just isn't there to
perpetuate such a magical development. This is no fault of Dennis Wanebo,
who does fine work on this CD.
Deep Oasis: Lorrie Singer and Bradley Kopp are a
husband-wife team from Austin, Texas, and long-time music pros. Both are
regular performers on the Austin and Texas regional music scenes, and
with A Deep Oasis they have taken a first stab at writing their
own material. This seems odd, at this late stage of their careers, that
songwriting hasn't been a focus for them up until now, but one might
attribute this to their exposure and access to material from their
social peer group of established songwriters.
for instance, contributed to this LP of Americana that is notable for
Kopp's crisp guitar work and Singer-Kopp's accessible tunes. The "deep
oasis" reference is hard to get, for deep does not really characterize
the intent of
these songs or the approach that Singer-Kopp have taken to producing
this recording. They are precise but perhaps a little too slick to
achieve that soul-shaking resonance associated with depth. These
are more like simple stories of common folk told in a straight-forward
but exceptionally professional way. Here we have that fault line that
divides creative vision from performance artistry. Singer-Kopp have the
performance artistry part down pat, but they probably run up against a
wall regarding the songwriter vision part. It feels like product to be
sold at the show.
Lynn Bush has people who believe in her, which one assumes is
based on respect for her radio-friendly style and sheer horsepower. Her
songs are right in the pocket with contemporary country blues, and she
has an AM voice, by which I mean she comes across even in a lo-fi
context. There are no cringe moments in her vocals, just pure
consistency across a wide dynamic range, including her attack and
melodic scope. There are no doubt more than a few –
probably more than a million – songwriters out there who wish they had
Bush’s apparently natural feel for hook-filled pop. On the other hand,
she works with a lot of songwriters. (One suspects that she holds a deep
bag of tunes.) It might be interesting to strip away all the other
collaborative influences, as she did on the track “Life Is All About
Love”, the only such solo flight on the 2010 LP Saltwater, to get a
better handle on who she is. One may not listen to Saltwater and come
away with any particular connection to the artists herself, and that may
be due to her collaborative approach. It probably also says something
about marketing songs in our present age. There is something smartly
generic about Vera Lynn Bush’s tracks, like the later output of someone
who has run into a lot critiques along the way to becoming a pro. And
she is a pro, right at the top end, and supported on Saltwater by a high-end group of Nashville musicians from the “Memphis
side” of Music City. Stylistically Vera Lynn Bush is edgier, but
fans of songwriter Gretchen Peters will hear a bit of similarity
in the balladry of the two, as well as the interest each has shown in dueting with cowboys (“Faster Than Angels Fly” for Bush on Saltwater).
Vera Lynn, on the other hand, is a honky-tonker next to the intellectual
story spinning of Peters, and she is not targeting the same demographic,
whatever their peripheral crossover. On the other hand, one wishes that Vera Lynn
Bush would fall under some stylistic influences that would package the
girl on the sleeves of the Saltwater LP and keep her at that level of
presentation. Unfortunately, Vera Lynn has shown way too much
willingness to use YouTube to emphasize some stylistic shortcomings that
one suspects are undermining to her crossover potential. And one wishes that she was making more
personal statements, because she has great capacity for hitting southern
fried gold once she puts her musical-spiritual-presentation package into
maturity mode. It just feels like she needs an older, classier sister.
Happening:Kree Woods is
someone who has a chance to have something big happen, this due to her
up-energy, low-on-cliché approach, and a youthful freshness that comes
across on small speakers. She landed a single, "Cave In," on MTV's 2011
season of The Real World: Las Vegas, which peaked at No. 10 on the
iTunes singer/songwriter charts. So far it has been just EPs for Woods,
but this and her self-titled Kree Woods are really top-end
commercial offerings. Of those releases reviewed in this edition, Kree
Woods is the performer with legs, the one who could do more with her
material than simply supplement live performance income with side sales.
To the extent that radio hits are still a possibility, Kree Woods would
be the horse to back.
Leap of Faith:Julie Rust
has been described as doing music that is "ponderous" - not really a
word one associates with a musical compliment - and "beautiful". However
labored, the descriptives are apt. Julie Rust has a beautiful, clear
tone to her voice that has the odd effect of communicating distance from
her listener, as if she belongs to a class that you, the listener,
probably don't. She does intimate work that you, the other, will
never be able to fully embrace, but rather must just observe. This is
Rust's crucible. She feels like an aesthete whose cold remove puts her
in an odd place, but one that could be well exploited for soundtrack
material, particularly if the music is required to communicate that
peculiar isolation that is so common to highly evolved egos. She does a
nice job of presenting a fragile-as-glass world, too effete to exist
beside those of other china princesses, such as the sublimely sensual
Tori Amos, but right on for the protected birds of the caged and
cosseted realms, the wives of well-to-do business types and the
financially secure for whom only emotional disturbance is in play.
Review of an "Edited Trio" House Concert: the sum of the parts…
The Edited Trio, from
left, is Brett Perkins, Mark Davis and David Zink. ► Performing
"Don't Know How to Get Through"
By my reckoning Songwriters (capital S)
are a mysterious bunch!
The process of receiving the offerings
they make is equally mysterious!
I have listened to a bunch of songwriters over the years & some grab me
& some don’t!
I grew up in a “golden age” of pop radio:
late ‘50’s, up to MTV!
I heard classic FM radio “abornin” & have
spent time “studying” the work of many of the best songwriters in
I had money when the first spate of CD
reissues came around & then found YouTube.
I know Artists that I count as friends
who are excellent songwriters & will us them as the benchmark with which
I make other critical judgments. The bar is high!
Three of these writers simply “stopped
the bus” when I put their discs on & in these cases I left them in my
“morning” disc player for 30+ days! I didn’t take them out until I
wanted to hear some Dylan.
The edited Trio (www.editedtrio.com)
is/was such a revelation!
Comprised of three strong solo songwriters:
David Zink (whose disc Popzinkle I reviewed here)
Brett Perkins & Mark Davis.
Brett & Mark were unknown to me when I
accepted the invite to a House Concert. They both have serious bonafides
& the requisite websites…check them out.
Each of the artists first did 3 songs
solo w/Brett going first.
Right out of the box he stunned me:
clear, strong voice, compelling lyrics. For You is v melodic & set the
bar for the 2 songs that followed. I will miss hanging out w/you (?) is
a great song & I couldn’t find it referenced on his site(?) He said he
had been referred to as “the pop guy” of the group. I bought his 2002
disc Danish Weather & couldn’t be happier w/the choice: the songs
are melodic & adult & have good, sometimes great arrangements, hooks &
his influences are “on his sleeve” throughout the proceedings…good
David Zink followed. I had heard David
perform in this very room & his album PopZinkle was one of the
discs I played for 30+ days. (read my review @ RARWRITER.com). My wife &
I have enjoyed it on a number of road trips. David did not disappoint.
Drawing from 4 discs he played a v strong harmonica prelude to a bluesy,
rockin’ tune, followed w/song from Popzinkle (Wings of Love) &
closed w/a song about stalking a woman…just kidding….David uses dynamics
extensively & is v animated & has a sly humor that is hard to ignore….a
great singer & player topped only by his thoughtful, highly melodic
writing…he’s the bluesy rocker of the group but much more indeed!
Mark Davis then came on: the brooding
rocker indeed!! Strong, sweet voice (he’s John Lennon on a good day)
w/much soul in his delivery & lyrics. He opened w/ Everybody’s Born
Believing & I was a believer a few bars in!! How can someone make a song
with a title like Black Cloud into a song you want to hear again? 2 of
his solo numbers are on disc ‘because there’s nothing outside’ & I
purchased ‘immaculate’ also & there is much to recommend on any/all of
his discs….his 3rd solo number ‘me & my old man’ is on immaculate & like
any really good song it “works” w/out the great arrangement on the
disc…he uses string sections to incredible effect and a bunch of
acoustic piano & makes the songs sound there is no other way they should
be performed. This is a song/studio tour de force at once likeable but
bearing up well under repeated listening.
The Trio came on after a short break &
made magic as soon as they opened their mouths…using vocal unison &
shifting lead voice, shifting harmony combinations they sang melodic
music w/2 guitars & Brett playing percussion (Cajon) to good effect.
They capoed the guitars (ala Peter, Paul & Mary) to produce specific
sonic effects for strong songs. All this material is the result of a
group process & indeed has another identity from music on the individual
discs. We listened to the 5 song edited Trio disc on the way home &
found the few studio additions (string section, bass) to be welcome
adornments to well crafted songs w/interesting melodies, well arranged
vocals & lyrics that speak to grownup concerns & the spiritual quest
inherent in our lives. We have been thrilled by groups of men singing
together over the years & these guys join the ranks w/a strong freshman
You can help these guys produce the next disc by going to
www.editedtrio.com & checking out the options for support.
is a life-long musician and music educator and a regular
contributor to RARWRITER.com.
Straddling Eastern and Western
idioms, Mohammed Fairouz, one of the most frequently
performed composers of his generation, has emerged as a
force on the musical scene. Praised by the New York Times as
"warmly sympathetic", his music has been received at venues
such as Carnegie Hall, Boston’s
Hall, Kennedy Center and internationally throughout the
U.S., Europe, the Middle East and Australia. He has received
commissions from Musicians for Harmony,
Northeastern University, Imani Winds, Cygnus Ensemble,
Counter) induction, Alea III (Boston University), Alwan for
the Arts, the Second Instrumental Unit, among others. The
composer will have six world premieres in 2011-12, including
his Piano Sonata No. 2 “The Last resistance”, his first wind
quintet, a clarinet quintet, a multi-movement choral work
called "Anything Can Happen", an extended art song, and his
third symphony. An album of Fairouz’s chamber music,
entitled Critical Models, is slated for release on
the Sono Luminus label on November 15. - Stuart
Vintage Blue is a 5-piece alt-rock
unit out of Chicago, who recently released their debut LP, Strike the
Vintage Blue has talent, but this debut
effort lacks focus, as if it is a compilation from tracks recorded by
several different bands that may previously have been fronted by singer/songwriters
Bassett and Ryan Tibbs. One of them writes a little more pop,
while the other veers toward coffee house acoustic. One sings like a guy
who could one day have a hit, the other not so much.
Vintage Blue is the subject of the debut
of "A&R with RAR", an audio-visual
presentation in which yours truly comments while listening to the CD
tracks. This is a unique opportunity to form your own reactions to
Vintage Blue while reading review comments.
Check it out.
Brett Perkins, Mark Davis &
David Zink. Live at Blågårds
Apotek, Copenhagen, Denmark
in February 2011.
Jones Has A New CD that Finds Rockabilly to Be Alive and Kicking
He (Jones) is spectacular, not only
in his considerable pyrotechnical flash, but in the soul and depth of
his musical choices. He is a studied composer, a player who truly owns
his instrument. He is also a clever lyricist and an accomplished singer.
There he is a role player, performing the lyrics almost in character,
and this is a character we all recognize as Mr. America, our Everyman.
He works with his hands and strength of his back, and he leads with his
Steven L Smith seems to get that
sometimes guys go into those bars where mostly
naked women swing around on poles and, after a
few drinks, they fall in love with them. This
seems counter to the instincts that draw men to
these clubs in the first place, but then men are
weak and drink is strong, and the instinct to
care for vulnerable souls is even stronger,
one’s own and those of others. “I fell in love
with a woman on a pole,” sings Smith in the
opening track of Outside of Tupelo, his
2010 release on his Vinyl Record Company label.
It is the kickoff to an album’s worth of
top-flight country with white whiskers and a
Sam Broussard Reviews Steve Conn's New CD Beautiful Dream.
Sam Broussard -
There’s a lot of good music
out there these days. Powerful sounds burnished by sonic landscapers,
singers who can emote at the heights of passion all day, musicians who
can play anything and do, and amateur musicians who create mood
cathedrals on laptops that sound just tossed off, pulled out of a pocket
and dropped into your inner spaces, mixing in with the howling winds of
your very own and very unique void.
APEYGA, the three-piece heavy-jazzadelic
unit out of Culver City, Southern
California, who recently released Ring,
their third LP, is an indie film producer’s
mother lode of disturbing, disorienting,
sonic assault; just the kind needed for that
FEAR.NET gore fest my wife keeps on all
night long, so that now I can’t sleep unless
I hear women screaming in the background.
“San Francisco was our first stop
along the way, where Dad started up a blueprint company. They sent him
to Los Angeles to do it all over again and that’s where my musical
odessey (sic) begins.” So reads the liner notes on A Postcard from California, Al Jardine’s
sentimental labor of love chronicling his boyhood journey to California
and his serendipitous meeting, at El Camino College, with a kid named
Whatever it is about guns, and songs
about guns, that has always resonated in the soul of man – it was a
staple on AM radio in songs from Johnny Horton, Marty Robbins, and
others when I was growing up in Middle America – it has clearly put its
stamp on Australian singer-songwriter Steve Lee.