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CD Reviews – July 2013

NOWHERE SLOW – LISTEN/LOVE (Windmill Agency Records) Since their beginnings in 1997, Nowhere Slow has evolved their sound and emerged into one of northeastern Pennsylvania’s most prominent groups. Their fourth recording, Listen/Love, finds Nowhere Slow taking their pop-rock foundation and stretching it into different terrains. Singer, guitarist and chief songwriter Rick Gillette shows a knack for catchy song hooks and relatable lyrics; and guitarist/keyboardist John Canjar, bassist Will Clauss and drummer Matt Kester bring those songs to life with bright arrangements that incorporate elements of rock, funk and jazz. Listen/Love’s 11 tracks run the gamut from punchy rockers to funky grooves to gentle acoustic ballads. The lion’s share of songs are upbeat, optimistic and hopeful about life and relationships; the uptempo “This Is Our Night” sets the tone for the album as a hopeful statement of purpose about going for the gusto, and songs like “Made You Look” and “Hard to Believe” follow suit with cheery melodies riding atop driving rhythms. Sassier and stormier, “Count on Me” lays down the funk as it turns up the vinegar. The hard-rocking “Go Away” says goodbye and good riddance, while “Same Old Love Song” is lighter and more conciliatory in tone. Nowhere Slow offers a reverent patriotic-themed ode in “Hero,” and Gillette croons a tender song of devotion on “Blue Eyed Boy.” The performances are crisp, smooth and enthusiastic, and Nowhere Slow throws enough variation into each number to keep the album fresh. These players serve the melodies, supporting the arrangements with timely fills and nuances that help drive each song hook home. Produced by Eric Ritter and mastered at Abbey Road Studios, Listen/Love sounds clean, sharp and polished. Nowhere Slow’s blend of melody, hooks and chops makes Listen/Live an invigorating, pleasant listen.(The CD can be obtained through the group’s website,

THE LONE WOLF PROJECT – OLD WORDS, NEW CHAPTERS (Susquehanna Entertainment) From his home base of Mount Wolf (near York), Small Town Titans lead singer Phil Freeman started his solo folk/blues rock endeavor The Lone Wolf Project five years ago, and has toured nationally. The Lone Wolf Project’s latest CD, Old Words, New Chapters, indulges different cracks and crevices of Freeman’s musical personality and world. Playing guitar, banjo, bass, harmonica and various percussion, his sound mixes elements of acoustic folk, Americana, blues and rock elements; and his gruff howl recalls classic Tom Waits and Dr. John. Each song demonstrates a different slant and vibe, from punchy to tranquil, as Freeman croons about life’s ups and downs, incorporating clever metaphorical wordplays along the way. Setting an early delta blues tone, “The Arrival” starts by embracing the new day, its challenges and possibilities. Freeman muses about temptation and redemption on “Water Into Wine,” with cello and mariachi-styled trumpets coloring its path. Freeman leaves the past behind with the upbeat “Blood Sucker Blues,” goes for the gusto on the Dave Matthews-tinged “The Bridge,” and builds to a horn-laced crescendo on the raucous “Up, Down, Turn Around.” In a calmer vein, “Family Ties” champions the preservation of life’s remnants and connecting threads, and Freeman croons duets with guests Dana Alexandra and Rachel Lightner on “Down South” and “Ice Breaker” respectively. Evolving from a country-driven start into a punchy rant, the title song “Old Words, New Chapters” closes the album with Freeman realizing that his creativity and wisdom must stay honest and grounded by reality. Freeman’s melodies are crisp and strong, and his arrangements are bare-bones and let the instrumentation do the talking. Producer Jason Rubal preserves the stripped-down feel of the overall set, while enabling Freeman’s voice to deliver the appropriate acid and edge. Old Words, New Chapters further defines The Lone Wolf Project’s sonic frontier, and shows Freeman to be a lone wolf with a clever musical bite. (The CD can be purchased from the website

JOHN HAHN – DARKNESS FALLS (no label) Guitarist John Hahn first rose to regional prominence after he joined Harpo in his late teens, honing his skills while playing the group’s rigorous touring schedule, and performing on their 1987 Armed to Deliver album. Hahn was subsequently discovered by Shrapnel Records head Mike Varney and featured in his Guitar Player Magazine, before signing with hard rock indie label Leviathan Records and issuing several solo recordings. His latest, Darkness Falls, exposes more of Hahn’s virtuosity and creativity over ten action-packed instrumental tracks. Hahn’s guitar skills are obvious from the get-go, but he executes his dazzling fretboard displays in the context of well-crafted, tight and varying arrangements that deploy colorful progressions and tempo shifts, and the ability to set and maintain moods. The overall direction of the CD is darker-toned, hard-hitting rock that runs the gamut from frantic to calm. The disc-opener “Next Day Air” blasts the album into action; a fast-firing, pedal-to-the-metal assault that jars the listener to attention. From there, Hahn delves into diverse terrain; taking jazz-like dynamics for a metal-rocking joyride on “Journey from Within,” and generating a leviathan neoclassical arrangement on the pounding “Storm Runner.” On the title track composition, “Darkness Falls,” Hahn constructs an oceanic, surging arrangement with waves of sonic ebb and flow. “Unbreakable” crunches down with a stern, stalwart heavy rock arrangement, while “Arabian Sails” offers a forceful metallic battle charge. Hahn mixes sullen and heavy dynamics on “Pitch Black” and the disc-closer “Ultraviolet,” with both tracks escalating from reserved and shadowy passages into full-thundering sonic storms. Hahn’s arrangements never stay in one place for long, with each track elaborating and exploring from its central riff, with Hahn’s guitar fireworks providing the coloration and detail. Recorded, mixed, produced and mastered by Hahn, Darkness Falls sounds big and towering, urgent and edgy. While guitar shred connoisseurs will no doubt savor John Hahn’s latest album, general purpose rock fans should appreciate the versatility of his virtuosity, and his skill of weaving it all together into both cohesive individual compositions and a unified, flowing set. (The CD can be obtained through John Hahn’s website,

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