November 2012 CD Reviews
WALT & JACKIE – BARE (JL Records) Johnstown’s Walt Churchey and Jackie Kopco have already established themselves as solo artists, both having released several albums of music individually. The two now bring their talents together on their first album as a duo, called Bare. Both singers’ distinctive voices and styles nicely merge over the disc’s ten acoustic-geared tracks; Churchey’s bold voice and cadence combines with Kopco’s soaring, gentle style. The obvious highlight of this album is the magic when these voices come together; continually front and center in the mix, their voices blend and intertwine with each other to drive home the songs’ relatable themes of lives, loves, simple pleasures and ambitions. Each song is well-crafted and distinct in its style and tone, as the pair mixes moods and emotions from tender to excited. The disc’s hopeful opening track, “Steppin’ Stone,” expresses that each journey begins with a single step. On the more energetic side, “Our Way” shares the pair’s happiness with their musical endeavor and the satisfaction of controlling their own path, and “Just Like You” compares the lives of the rich and not so famous. The duo presents thoughtful odes with “Men Are From Mars” and its look at the communication quarks between the two sexes, and “Once You Cross That Line” with its consideration of life’s choices and turning points. Excitement toward warm weather festivities permeates the words and vibe of “Summer Thing,” and the pair shows a tender and more romantic side on “Better Day” and the Christmas-themed “Take Time.” Produced and engineered by Churchey and Kopco, Bare sounds clear and direct, and allows the simplicity of the melodies and arrangements to shine through without needless clutter. The ultimate chemistry between Walt Churchey and Jackie Kopco makes Bare a comforting, joyous listen that further exposes both performers’ vast talents and versatility. (The CD can be obtained through Walt & Jackie’s website, www.waltandjackie.com.)
PHILIP MASORTI – ANOTHER YEAR (Apache Music) Tragedy moved Centre County lawyer Philip Masorti to seriously pick up his guitar six years ago and begin writing songs. The first result of that songwriting was Masorti’s 2009 album Father’s Eyes. Masorti has now followed up that effort with two simultaneously-issued and separate pieces of work; an Americana-rooted disc, Another Year, and a more rock-leaning album, Ceramic Jesus. Both albums enable Masorti to explore different sides of his musical personality, while he shares thoughtful and often witty philosophies about life and the world. Through its compelling ten tracks, Another Year explores folk, bluegrass, blues and other Americana avenues; as Masorti is assisted by several State College music scene luminaries, such as Junior Tutwiler on guitars, Bill “Wiggus” Wilgus on guitars and mandolin, Noah Figlin (The Nightcrawlers) on guitar and pedal steel, Daniel Collins on fiddle, Pat McGinnis on bass and Stubby on drums. Displaying a fast-firing vocal style and cadence reminiscent of Lou Reed and Bob Dylan, Masorti again taps his father’s inspiration to open the album with a rustic update of “Father’s Eyes.” Bluegrass provides the backdrop for Masorti’s lyrical prosecution of governmental and business corruption, “Dream American,” as well as his ode to one of America’s most famous missing persons, “Jimmy Hoffa.” In a playful vein, Masorti touts the joys of couch potato-dom on “The Great Indoorsman.” He ponders thoughtful themes as well, addressing fate and legacy on “Crimson,” aging on the title track “Another Year,” the ease of temptation on “Final Contradiction,” and history in a cigar box on the disc-closer “Arrowhead.” Masorti’s presentation is clear and up front, and his intriguing personality shines through on each song. The various musicians and guests add color and depth to the overall sound, making Another Year a complete-sounding set that reveals more of Philip Masorti’s musical soul and inspirations. (The CD can be obtained through Masorti’s website, www.philipmasorti.com.)
PHILIP MASORTI – CERAMIC JESUS (Apache Music) One of two simultaneously-issued CD’s, Philip Masorti’s Ceramic Jesus explores edgier musical terrain than the more Americana-flavored Another Year, enabling Masorti to indulge the more electric side of his musical personality. A different roster of assisting musicians helps Masorti realize his musical visions here; including electric guitarists Noah Wotherspoon and Jason “Junior” Tutwiler, bassist Peter Jogo, drummer Daryl Branford, keyboardist Delmar Brown and fiddler Daniel Collins. The main constant between the two albums is Masorti’s edgy persona and presentation, which provides more of a Lou Reed/Velvet Underground and David Byrne flavor over the disc’s eight tracks. The neurotic Byrne-like tone permeates the uptempo disc-opening title track, “Ceramic Jesus” and its theme of being true to oneself over striving for unrealistic goals and ideals. Masorti’s wit is sharp here as well, demonstrated on the ode to societal finger-pointing and accountability “It’s Not My Fault,” his sassy blurring of boundaries between reality and television called “Gameshow,” and the hard-rocking “I Wanna Know,” where he seeks answers and salvation. He relates darker and sullen emotions on the tranquil “Confidential Wound,” and explores dark corners of the soul on the slow, expansive, psychedelic blues-rock exercise “Breathe Again.” Masorti’s edgy presentation is again front and center on this disc, and his cast of players provide the proper tempo and punch to send his melodies and messages home. Like Another Year, Philip Masorti’s Ceramic Jesus exposes more nooks and crannies of its creator’s musical soul, and gives the listener a more complete scope of Masorti and what makes him tick. (The CD can be obtained through Masorti’s website, www.philipmasorti.com.)
LITTLE BUDDY – BRIDGEPORT TRAIN (no label) Johnstown native Mark Kormanik and his Philadelphia-based blues trio Little Buddy charge full steam ahead on their sixth album, Bridgeport Train, as they continue to deliver the goods on a blend of electric blues, blues-rock, funk and surf-rock flavors. Kormanik – a.k.a. “Little Buddy” – bassist Doug Brown and drummer John Huhn let it rip over Bridgeport Train’s 10 tracks; offering engaging riffs, rowdy rhythms and enthusiastic performances. The songs are basic and to the point, celebrating the time-tested lyrical blues themes of hard life, hard love and heartbreak. Named in deference to Kormanik’s current hometown, the title track “Bridgeport Train” opens the album as a bold blues romp both celebrating and lamenting bad love. Merging nursery rhyme and innuendo, “Sing a Song of Sixpence” offers a feisty blues/funk shuffle, and the group reaches down deep to wrench the soul on the dark and sullen “Now I Run.” Little Buddy offers funky workouts with “Heartbreaker” and “You and I,” and high-powered boogie on “You Know You Love Me.” Tapping early roots rock’n’roll flavors, the group combines several surf rock instrumentals into their “Surf Medley,” and gives a Bo Diddley treatment to Buddy Holly’s classic hit “Oh Boy.” And their instrumental chops take the forefront on the guitar rocker “Woodshed” and the disc-closing blues workout “Enzo’s Blues.” The trio’s instrumental skills and dexterity are front and center throughout the CD, as all three musicians show the ability to play off one another and improvise on the spot. Kormanik’s guitar fireworks are frequent and impressive, and his mastery of tones enables his guitar to sing out in full voice. Mixed and mastered by Stephen M. Pastore at Innermix Recording Studio in Collegeville, this album sounds basic and bare bones, letting the performances do all the talking. Bridgeport Train offers sturdy, book-rule electric blues and blues rock, and Little Buddy further cements their stature as a well-tuned blues-rocking machine. (The CD can be obtained through the group’s website, www.littlebuddy1.com.)
PAGES OF PAUL – “THIS TIME” Recorded and mastered by Richard Rupert at Green Valley Recording, Hugsvile, PA. Produced by Paul Curcuruto and Rick Buck. Performers: Karen Nogle, vocals. Mark Tomeo, pedal steel, dobro, slide guitar, vocals. Rick Buck, bass, drums, guitars, vocals. Paul Curcuruto, guitars, organ, vocals. When the musicians got together to form Pages of Paul they found that Paul was one of those musicians who ooze music. Paul had a room full of music written of his songs and lyrics. Now the best was yet to come. Bring in the finest musicians of the heart of the Susquehanna Valley to make this band and CD. Karen Nogle’s sweet voice can get strong when she wants to, a fine voice of the valley. Mark Tomeo a very well known sideman of the Valley plays just about every instrument and lends his prowess on pedal steel. Rick Buck, a well known guitarist in his own right, is a sought after sideman in bands who have played aroundthe world. Paul Curcuruto is the backbone of this band. His music writing and lyrics just flow together. A soft rock sound to these songs. Great for adult radio air waves. Catchy dancing mood music to tap your foot to. Twelve songs on this CD just ooze smoothness, grace and quality. Definitely a bband and CD to seek out in the heart of the Susquehanna Valley centered in Winfeild, PA. www.reverbnation.com/pages of paul Reviewed by keith Hummel.
FIST FIGHT IN THE PARKING LOT – FIST FIGHT IN THE PARKING LOT (Innervenus Music Collective) Named after a song from a Saturday Night Live skit, Fist Fight in the Parking Lot formed in 2009, and features members of the Motorpsychos, MojoFilter and Venus In Furs. On their self-titled debut, Fist Fight in the Parking Lot drills no-nonsense, hard-hitting, metallic rock rooted in the traditions of classic Black Sabbath and Corrosion Of Conformity. Weighty, brazen rhythms from drummer Chris Ruane and bassist Johnnie Metal merge with snarling riffs from guitarist Jason Sichi and lead singer Abby Krizner to craft a tough, aggressive wall of sound. Krizner tops the attack with her acidic wail, as she voices snide themes of confrontation, relationship power struggles and more. Pun notwithstanding, Fist Fight in the Parking Lot effectively packs their punch at various tempos over the disc’s nine tracks. The disc opener “S & M” and “The Lone Gunman” boldly strut along chunky, Pantera-like rhythms, while “Side Steppin’ Ninja” takes on a thundering Sabbathy presence as Krizner dresses down a loose cannon. The group is tough at higher speeds as well, demonstrated on the rampaging “Make Progress, Walk Away” and “Dr. Ugula,” and they tap into stoner-rock turf on the slow and sludgy “Eternal Embrace” and disc closer “Blue Jesus.” The instrumental performances are aggressive and go for the throat, and Krizner’s vocal presentation achieves the fitting balance of melody, teeth and indifference. Produced by the group, Fist Fight in the Parking Lot sounds appropriately sharp and abrasive, but backs its teeth with full explosiveness and thunder. Fist Fight in the Parking Lot’s first chapter delivers a visceral rock’em, sock’em sonic throwdown made for cranking loud and creating a public disturbance. (The CD can be obtained through the group’s website,www.fistfightintheparkinglot.com.)