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CD Reviews – August 2013

BURDEN MY SURRENDER – CHANNELS (no label) Since 2008, Wellsboro-based quintet Burden My Surrender has been blazing a path on the state’s stages with their unrelenting brand of hard-hitting, female-fronted modern rock. Their second recording, Channels, offers a stern crash course on the group’s power, emotion and intensity. Battering ram rhythms generated by drummer Brad Buffington and bassist Kyle Linscott lock horns with snarling and searing guitarwork from Mat Marsiglio and Dale Schoonover; crafting the terse backdrops for singer Britney Johnson, whose blend of range, power, clarity and emotional intensity quickly commands attention through Channels’ seven tracks. Burden My Surrender crafts sharp and detailed melodies with elaborate plot twists, churning rhythms and frequent tempo shifts. Johnson explores the cracks and crevices of the human psyche in her lyrics. She ponders the demons in her mind on the disc opener “A Mind Invasion,” confronts inner anxieties on “Imagine Agony” and “Worry,” and detachment on “Empty Rooms.” Marsiglio’s and Buffington’s backing screams add more rage to the angry “One to Blame” and “All You Can Count On.” The performances on the CD are strong, with Johnson’s voice direct, stern and to the point; and her bandmates’ instrumental accompaniment forceful and uncompromising. The production by the band and Dave Shaffer enables the intricasies of Johnson’s melodic edge to shine through, while allowing the rest of the band to bare their full teeth and metalcore firepower. Burden My Surrender makes an impressive statement on Channels, a sonic upper cut to the jaw that demands attention and should elevate this group’s modern rock/metal credentials to a higher profile. (The CD can be purchased from the group’s website, www.burdenmysurrender.com.)

ELI THE HAWK – FABLES IN TIME (no label) Armed with 12- and six-string guitars, slide guitar, harmonica, tin whistle and percussion, Easton-based singer/songwriter Eli the Hawk takes listeners on a relaxing one-man folk, blues and Americana journey on his 15-song album, Fables in Time. His base sound blurs the line between traditional folk and delta blues, as Eli croons odes on a wide range of subjects, from picturesque travelogues to Wild West legends to wild game recipes. Eli’s strings provide the backbone, with his heartfelt harmonica wail providing color commentary to paint the sonic picture. Equally heartfelt is Eli’s singing, which ranges from playful yodeling to woeful wailing to tranquil tones, often all within the course of the same song. Listeners can sense the raw passion in Eli’s voice as he celebrates the wonder of life on “O to Be Born,” recovers from emotional hurt on “Pain Is Gone,” grows wary of urban crime on “Sirens,” and laments on “After the Battle.” He enjoys the comfort of a “Lazy Tuesday” to start the album, savors backwoods cooking on “Carve that Opossum,” and celebrates a femme frontier bandit on “The Legend of Belle Starr.” Eli’s arrangements are simple and to the point; his strings and harmonica are ever-present, with his other instruments entering in and out of the mix to keep the sound fresh throughout the set. The recording is basic, with Eli’s voice and instruments doing the talking with minimal studio bells and whistles. Fables in Time takes listeners into Eli the Hawk’s world to experience his distinctive personality, inspirations and motivations. It is a colorful offering that fans of folk, blues and Americana should savor. (The CD can be obtained through Eli the Hawk’s Reverbnation website, www.reverbnation.com/elithehawk.)

COLEBROOK ROAD – COLEBROOK ROAD (no label) Named after one of several such thoroughfares located near their home base of Harrisburg, Colebrook Road celebrates traditional-flavored bluegrass on their self-titled debut CD. Lead singer, guitarist and dobro player Jesse Eisenbise, banjo picker Marcus Weaver, upright bass player Jeff Campbell, fiddler Joe McAnulty and mandolin picker Wade Yankey introduce listeners to their brand of fast-firing, precision bluegrass and folk sounds through the disc’s ten tracks. The group’s instrumental performances are tight and sharp, and their vocals and harmonies bright and clear. Colebrook Road’s songs celebrate the values of small-town living, nature and rural heritage. Several songs herald the rural work ethic; the uptempo disc opener “Conewago Clay” and rapid fire disc closer “Sun Up Sun Down” both celebrate and tolerate long hours in the field and on the job, while “Both Sides of the Line” concerns survival and making ends meet. Other songs deal with farming issues; the hopeful “Dry Ground Blues” wishes for a little rain, while “Coyote” compares the plights of wildlife losing habitat and independent farmers losing their land. “Something in the Night” paints a picture of rural nocturnal calm, while “Without You” laments loneliness. Colebrook Road showcases their instrumental skills on two romping instrumentals, “Misfire” and “Grandma’s Cookin.’” Recorded and mixed by Bill Trego, Colebrook Road’s set sounds crisp and fresh; and the group’s arrangements are airtight and busy, with the blend of constant instrumental prowess and vocal dynamics resulting in never a dull moment. Colebrook Road’s first offering provides a strong introduction that roots the group’s sound in traditional bluegrass, while giving it a newgrass edge and makeover. (The CD can be obtained through the group’s website, www.colebrookroad.com.)

THE CREW OF THE HALF MOON – AUTOMYTHOGRAPHY (My Idea Of Fun) After establishing themselves over the past decade as songwriters on the Johnstown indie scene, Dan Oatman and Katie Rhodes merged their talents into The Crew Of The Half Moon early last year, and their creative chemistry has resulted in their debut CD, Automythography. Through the disc’s 16 tracks, Oatman and Rhodes merge a myriad of traditional folk instrumentation and styles with a modern, edgy songwriting style to produce a sound that is captivating and intriguing. Acoustic guitars, lap steel, mandolin, piano, ukulele, harmonica, bass, violin bow, tambourine and even a gin bottle make their ways into The Crew Of The Half Moon’s stew of Americana, folk, blues and bluegrass sounds. Both Oatman and Rhodes bring different singing styles to the table; Oatman’s relaxed cadence playing counterpoint to Rhodes’ bolder and more assertive style. The Crew Of The Half Moon’s lyrics blend personal observations and soul searching with touches of punk vinegar, as they measure the angst of traditional values vs. modern day realities; the blues-driven “Steel Town Blues/The Baby Blues” examines the clash between classroom education and real world education, while Rhodes weighs her own path and independence on the folksy “Jesus Figurines.” The duo reaffirm their solid footing as they face a plastic modern society on the bluegrass-toned “Six Feet Under.” Rhodes defines her peace of mind on the mandolin-underscored “The Great Recession,” but delves into darker terrain in a western motif on “Devil on My Side.” The arrangements are mostly basic, with the various instrumental mixtures supporting both Rhodes’ and Oatman’s clear and distinctive vocals. The production and mix are clean-sounding, enabling The Crew Of The Half Moon’s talents and words to shine front and center with minimal studio bells and whistles. The Crew Of The Half Moon establish their unique acoustic-laden world on Automythography, a different-sounding album that successfully merges traditional music flavors with a decidedly modern lyrical angst and edge. (The CD can be obtained through the website www.myideaoffun.org.)

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