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CD Reviews – April 2013

DANI HOY – “TROPIGAL” (no label)

   It doesn’t take long listening into “TROPIGAL” to realize that its creator, York-based singer/songwriter Dani Hoy, has a vigorous passion for vacations and the beach. Through its 10 tracks, Hoy celebrates the beach life and all its joys, against a tropical-flavored country-rock backdrop rooted in the Parrot-head ethic of Jimmy Buffett and the pop sensibilities of classic Sheryl Crow. She sets the tone immediately on the bright and upbeat disc-opening title track, “TropiGal”, with its Caribbean musical tones underscoring her words about turning daydream into reality. Vacation romance takes the forefront on the quieter “Meet Me on the Boardwalk” and “Quiet Cove”. Hoy fantasizes about the ideal beach beau on “Tropical Man”, endures a ‘manther’ on the humorous “Jersey Whine”, and revisits a night of hardy partying during “Drunk on Mallory Square”. She delivers a positive message on “Today Is the Day”, and perhaps presents her most important wisdom on the tranquil ballad “Paradise (Is A State of Mind)”,  resolving that happiness comes from within, regardless of climate. Hoy’s melodies are catchy and pleasant, and her presentation is clear, bright and enthusiastic. Her studio sidemen nicely color her tropical-geared arrangements, resulting in a cohesive set that sweeps the listener’s mind away to a balmy island shore. The production and mix are clear, polished and full, enabling Hoy and her musical vacation visions to shine. “TROPIGAL” provides a joyous listen, as it welcomes listeners into Dani Hoy’s musical vacation paradise. This disc belongs on the car stereo for the final approach to that summertime beach getaway. (The CD can be obtained through Dani Hoy’s website, www.danihoymusic.com.)  — Reviewed by Jim Price

NINETAIL – “THE VULTURES ARE CIRCLING” (Hand/Eye Records)

   York-based heavy metal force Ninetail has built their resume with their blend of scathing, brutal soundscapes and outspoken, in-your-face lyrics. The group ups the ante on their latest effort, “THE VULTURES ARE CIRCLING”. A theme album based around the Revolutionary War, “THE VULTURES ARE CIRCLING” studies the brutality of warfare, cast against a backdrop of anger and revulsion toward aristocracy and power gone awry. Ninetail sells this terse theme with an unrelenting barrage of jackhammer rhythms, swarming and fierce guitar riffs, and frontman Jay W. Heitmann’s maniacal roar. The title track, “The Vultures Are Circling”, cleverly sets up the album with its foreboding tone of impending war and bloodshed. “Gas Lamp Renegade” references Paul Revere’s nocturnal ride to spread “the viral word,” before “Loathness” & Obedience” ponders the loyalty issues colonists faced at this point in history. Blood is shed and casualties mount during “Give Back to the Worm” and “The March of Libitina”,  and the ghosts of war are felt on “The Mist People”. Through the remaining tracks – “Waterloo”, “Entrusting the Sheep to the Wolves”, “The Iron Whore” and “Nine Steps to Nobody” – Ninetail cleverly positions the album to consider the issues at the root of the American revolution, while subtly pondering if history is about to repeat itself. “THE VULTURES ARE CIRCLING” is punishingly heavy, yet articulate with classical-inspired passages and instrumental detail; drummer Chris Appenzeller’s machine gun rhythms and Griff’s taut bass work set the rigid framework for Don Belch’s and Chris Evan’s snarling guitar chords and frenzied soloing, with Greg Weber’s key and sample fills providing accents and cementing the song settings. And while Heitmann howls with renewed ferocity, his words are clear and tempered with moments of sullen calm. The production and mix enable this album to go on the attack with all teeth bared, yet allows Ninetail’s intricacy and artistry to shine through. Cleverly weaving lessons from the past with foreboding about the future, Ninetail’s “THE VULTURES ARE CIRCLING” amounts to a modern metal masterpiece, simply put. This is a must for fans of the metal arts, and an ear-opener for everyone else. (The CD can be obtained through the website www.darkhollerarts.com.) —Reviewed by Jim Price

7TH LAYER – “THE RISE OF ABADDON” (no label) Since 2004, Harrisburg’s 7th Layer has evolved a unique and edgy, no-holds-barred, street-savvy, urban-rooted sound; coupled with an equally intense, theatric-geared live show. On their latest CD, “THE RISE OF ABADDON”, 7th Layer expands the scope of their sonic attack to infuse electronica, alternative and industrial rock into their hardcore rap/hip-hop foundations. The results are captivating, powerful, edgy and unpredictable; exploring sonic terrain not far removed from Nine Inch Nails/Marilyn Manson cyber rock and Hollywood Undead/Linkin Park rap-metal fusion. With lead mic-men Mal Havock and Filth singing, rapping and providing play-by-play, 7th Layer crafts a concept album about the impending end of the world and the rise of evil and chaos, orchestrated through four acts. The chaos commences through the rap-laden opening stanzas of “The Take Over” and “Armageddon”, before the almost playful “Dreams in the Hue of Black” with its Corey Hart “Sunglasses at Night”-styled synth riff. The album’s tone turns more serious and industrial with the pulsing “Change In Me” with its falsetto-laden choruses, the terse “Carbon Copy” and the hard-rapping title track “The Rise of Abaddon”. “No More Sundays” displays a Nine Inch Nails flavor, and themes of corrupted power and the rise of evil ensue on the stern “One World Leader” and the Linkin Park-ish “Screamin’ Demon”. And unrest leads to war through such homestretch exercises as the edgy “Project Blue Boom” and crunchy finale “Droppin’ Bombs”. The song arrangements go on the attack and demand the listener’s attention from start to end, with staccato beats, guitar riffage and digital effects generating the maelstrom to support the terse lyrical verbage laid down by Havock and Filth. These two strut the perfect cadence, attitude and swagger to make their words sing and sting. The mixes sound crisp, balanced and busy; a little more bassy ‘oomph’ might have given this more muscle and authority. But as it stands, “THE RISE OF ABADDON” raises the bar for 7th Layer, and shows a group unafraid to push the envelope, tackle new frontiers and break new ground. (The CD can be obtained through 7th Layer’s website, www.7thlayer.com.) — Reviewed by Jim Price

STERLING KOCH  – “LET IT SLIDE”

   (Recorded and mixed by Bret Alexander at Saturation Acres) Produced by Sterling Koch, Bret Alexander and Mary Koch. Performers: Sterling Koch: lap steel guitar, vocals, guitars. Gene Babula: bass guitar. John Goba: drums.

   I have been lucky to have heard Sterling Koch since my late teens. I saw him on TV with the Sterling Cook Force back then. I also have, I think, every recording of his be it cassette, cd, or lp. So you know I like this guy. It was hard for me to hear when Sterling told us that his neck and spine trouble would keep him from slinging a guitar. What now? Well, Sterling found his guitar love with playing a lap steel guitar, so he can sit and play. Sterling, playing in the Chicago style slide guitar blues is widely acclaimed as a foremost proponet of the lap steel guitar. Sterling has four previous cds of steel guitar blues music. Sterling has “joined the club” of legendary steel guitarsts; Calvin Cooke, Darick Campbell, Aubrey Ghent and Freddie Roulette, his friends and mentors.

   This new CD, “LET IT SLIDE” is chockful of Sterling originals and cover blues/rockabilly/rock music. Thirteen songs that rock. From the opener, “Shape I’m In” to the closer “Working Man’s Blues” Sterling and his band of brothers play as one and that’s all thriteen songs.

   In all these years I’ve never gotten to see Sterling live. Because I’m a sound guy, it’s hard to get to  live shows. I must say this new music  is what a “live” gig should sound like as Bret did a great job recording. I’m ready, some day we will meet in person, and I will catch up with Sterling. Meantime pick up a copy of “LET IT SLIDE” and let the music take you away. (Purchase “LET IT SLIDE” and get more info at www.sterlingkoch.com) —Reviewed by Keith Hummel

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