Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Review: "Southern Independents Vol. 1 and 2"

Over the past few months, Shooter Jennings has released two free compilations for his unfortunately named XXX movement, which are both still available for free download at http://www.givememyxxx.com/.

For those not familiar, Jennings hopes to create a genre called XXX to help promote some original artists, a commodity that doesn’t get much recognition in the mainstream these days. It’s an amalgam of musical styles, ranging from hardcore classic country, to Southern rock, to even some harder rock sounds. The qualifications to be part of the genre are a bit hard to describe, but it’s one of those things where you kind of know it when you hear it. The main points are that the musicians are doing their own thing on their own terms and no matter where the acts take the music, it’s all rooted in Southern and country tradition. The XXX moniker comes from the three x’s that appear on moonshine jugs in old cartoons and drawings. Obviously, that’s not what most people these days think of when they see XXX, which is a strike against the movement from the beginning.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Still Spinning: Alice Cooper, "Brutal Planet"

As I await next month’s release of Alice Cooper’s latest record Welcome 2 My Nightmare — with much more anticipation, I might add, now that I’ve heard some samples — I decided to revisit my favorite of his more modern efforts.

You see, Alice kind of got off-track in the 1980s. That’s not to say that he didn’t release some good stuff then, but he did kind of get pulled along with the flow, which runs counter to what he’s always been about. He released a few records with a parade of guest musicians that were some of the hottest commodities on the hard rock scene at the time, and the albums didn’t have quite the bite or impact that his earlier work had.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Review: Stoney LaRue, "Velvet"

When I reached into the envelope from B Side Music Group and felt something fuzzy, I wasn’t sure what, exactly, was going on. It soon became clear, though, as I pulled out the latest record from Oklahoma Red Dirt artist Stoney LaRue, titled Velvet. Appropriately, the CD cover is covered in red velvet. As, seemingly, one of the few remaining fans of the physical product out there, I appreciate it when a little effort is put into it, even if it’s something small. As a fan of country music that comes from the heart rather than a Music Row executive suite, I can also appreciate what’s contained on the album.

LaRue’s work is a blending of traditional country sounds, a little Americana, some folk and bluegrass here and there, and even some rock ‘n’ roll sizzle. The Red Dirt movement has always been a little difficult to define, and Velvet offers up a little bit of everything that goes into the genre. I was quite enjoying the record through the first four tracks, with the Southern rock grit of “Wiregrass” making the biggest impression. Then I hit the fifth track, “Sharecropper.” I stopped what I was doing, cranked it up and just enjoyed.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Stuck in My Head: Warrant, "Uncle Tom's Cabin"

This is the song that should have been Warrant’s defining moment. Their 1990 album was recorded and ready to go. It was going to be called Uncle Tom’s Cabin, and they were going to stake an attempt at a slightly more serious musical direction on the strength of this piece.

It might have even worked. But their label, Columbia, told them they needed another song, something catchy that might be a hit at radio. In about 15 minutes, singer Jani Lane knocked out the lyrics to a shallow three-chorder called “Cherry Pie,” essentially a three-minute string of sexual references, and the rest is history. When the album came out, the title was Cherry Pie, the song was the lead single and a huge hit, and Warrant’s fate was pretty much sealed.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Review: Benedictum, "Dominion"

So Benedictum isn’t exactly a new band, but somehow they’ve flown under my radar until Dominion, their third release.

My first impression wasn’t the best, either. When the techno-dance beat at the beginning of the opening title track kicked in, I thought perhaps taking this record on was a really bad idea. But by the end of the second track, “At the Gates,” the band had won me over, primarily with the catchy chorus groove of that song.

At heart, Benedictum is a traditional metal act, and they’re at their best in that realm.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Still Spinning: Bruce Dickinson, "Tattooed Millionaire"

When Bruce Dickinson’s first solo album, Tattooed Millionaire, arrived in 1990, it left me — and I’m sure many other Iron Maiden fans — just a little confused. My initial reaction to this mixture of 1970s-inspired hard rock and 1980s excess was deep disappointment.

It was such a far cry from what I was used to from Dickinson, and I thought the simplistic song structures didn’t really allow him to use that amazing voice to its fullest. Luckily for me, during those years, a $10 cassette was a serious investment, so I rarely gave up on one without a fight. As I gave it more chances, many of the songs began to grow on me, and two decades later, I’m actually quite fond of the album.