Featured Indie Releases by Damn Tall Buildings, Mike Browning, Blue Dogs and More
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By Lee Zimmerman
Here’s an overview of the best (and recent) releases by independent artists.
The Brooklyn-based band tall buildings sharing the kind of feeling so badly needed these days – a warm, thoughtful, warm embrace that conveys an old-school approach through songs that are undeniably effusive and enthusiastic. The title of their new album — their third to date — sleeping dogs, may hint at this unassuming approach, but it’s the music itself, flush with ancient instrumentation – violins, banjos, guitar and double bass – that still manages to make an emphatic impression. The trio – Avery Ballotta, Max Capistran and Sasha Dubyk – also share all the vocals and the majority of the songwriting credits, and as a result, they work in sync with a shared enthusiasm that literally jumps out of the grooves. This time around they’ve expanded their scope by incorporating trumpet, drums, flutes, lap steel and keys, but even so their unassuming attitude remains intact. Damn Tall Buildings may boast a handful of dizzying proportions, but thankfully this particular outfit looks decidedly down-to-earth.
Mike Browning presents another bite of the apple is a decidedly dynamic slice of ecstasy power pop. It’s not just a credit to mike browningthe ability to multi-task — he produced, recorded and mixed the album, in addition to writing all the songs — but also the fact that it’s a family affair. Although he claims it’s his first full album of original material, she shares credits with his sister, Teri Pierce, niece, Alyssa Blevins, and daughter Jillian Browning, all of whom sang background vocals on five. ten songs. Likewise, his wife Janine shares one duet over another. In addition, it also harnesses the talents of several other notable personalities, including seasoned savants such as Jamie Hoover and Steve Stoeckel of the Spongetones. Again, this is hardly surprising. Browning took a recording and production course taught by Hoover at Brunswick Community College in Southport, North Carolina, and he clearly learned his lessons well. These songs are effusive and exuberant, resonant and reassuring. A tastier bite of apple would be hard to find.
Freddie Steady KRC is an Austin-based power pop staple who manages to combine both attitude and fun in equal measure. His new album, suitably dubbed Dandy and registered under the aegis of The Freddie Steady Review, offers all the necessary ingredients to ensure immediate appeal, from a wealth of catchy melodies to an irreverent attitude that brings with it more than just a hint of humor. The lyrics of the first track “Bohemian Dandy” say it all: “I’m salty like the sea, Sweet like rock candy,” Won’t you let me be, your bohemian dandy? Given both the tone and the tenacity, it’s a proposition that’s hard to resist, but thankfully, there’s no reason to remain demure. Granted, some of the tracks hint at what appear to be offbeat intentions — Muchacho Borracho,” “Chopped Beef,” and “Girl Who Wore the Violet Crown, among them — but thankfully they still manage to connect, thanks to an approach upbeat and generally pleasant demeanor. As his name suggests, Freddie Steady has been sharing his skills for quite some time – as a guitarist, drummer, entrepreneur and champion of Texas music – but with Dandyit is becoming clear that wider recognition is long overdue.
Peter ManningRobinson is an astute musical maestro, pianist and composer whose new album, heavenly candy is aptly named. Comprised entirely of solo instrumentals – many of which are identified as “refractory piano music” – it’s intriguing, inviting and decidedly out of the ordinary, with titles that reflect Robinson’s brilliant creative concepts. “An Hour on Earth,” “Plateau of Mirrors,” “Obelisk,” “Celestial Beach,” and “Spiritual Warrior” find their composer sharing equal parts fascination, fluidity, and finesse, which, in turn, leaves the listener spellbound by the grace and beauty that emanate from each. Of course, this is much more than just background music, even as it creates a melodious tapestry that weaves a spell all its own. , it defies categorization, thanks to an atmospheric vibe all its own.There are those who insist that instrumental music is generally elusive and/or less compelling, but suffice it to say heavenly candy completely challenges this notion. Consider it a tasteful treat.
With his eighth album (!) Still the beginningChicago singer and songwriter Al Rose offers proof of what the world as a whole has missed. Rose is a talented songwriter, and although his music is sometimes reminiscent of other artists – the opening track “Don’t Know Why” sounds like the Who at their peak – each of these songs comes across with an urgency and immediacy that require immediate attention. It’s been six years since Rose’s last album, Spin Spin Dizzy and the world has seen more than its share of turmoil and hardship, the scourge of the pandemic, the weakening of democracy here at home and a chasm which is hollow. Rose approaches these questions with insight, intelligence, wit and common sense. “The present and the future are just bastards of the past,” Rose says on the mesmerizing and anthem “Said & Done,” summing up this dire dilemma so succinctly. A punchy album Still the beginning will hopefully bring this eloquent artist the attention he so decidedly deserves. A start like this bears repeating.
Returns are rare in the music business, so when an artist or band returns after an absence of nearly 15 years, it’s something to celebrate. So credit the Carolina combo blue dogs to make a fateful comeback with their appropriately titled new album Big Dreamers. Although the world at large might not know them then or now, they have quite a stable following, including Radney Foster and Jerry Douglas brought their talents to the new album, adding further emphasis to an auspicious offering. Indeed, the Blue Dogs’ new effort is exuberant and assured, an impressive combination considering their time away. Although they were kind of a cult band the first time around, if justice is done, Big Dreamers will bring them at least a hint of the recognition they so decidedly deserve. Hopefully this will also be the first of several albums to come in this renewed phase of their career. After all, even a rock and roll band deserves a second chance to shine.