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CD Reviews – September 2013

TREEHOUSE – SALT UPON THE STONES (no label) Centered in Williamsport but featuring musicians from throughout the Northeast, seven-piece ensemble Treehouse introduces a playful, freewheeling brand of music on their debut full-length studio album, Salt Upon the Stones. The brother and sister duo of bassist/percussionist Colin Dennen and keyboardist Michaela Dennen, plus the brother duo of bassist/percussionist Alex Hines and drummer Josh Hines all sing; accompanied by guitarists Jonah Walters and Evan Moffitt, and trumpet player/percussionist Jeff Mach. Through Salt Upon the Stones’ eight tracks, Treehouse crafts lively, unconventional melodies that combine elements of psychedelic-era Beatles folk and pop, inventive indie-flavored alternative rock, and worldbeat flourishes reminiscent of Paul Simon and Rusted Root. The music is no-holds-barred, and often veers off into unexpected tangents and side journeys, setting the foundation for Treehouse’s often happy, euphoric lyrics. The disc opener “Acorns” encourages listeners to take stock in the simple pleasures around them; “Selfish” celebrates the sights and sounds of a beachfront. “I Follow the Echo” provides an introspective look at following one’s muse, while “Carousel” celebrates the cycle of life. Treehouse varies between shorter and lengthier exercises, with the expansive nine-minute-plus epic “Animals” exploring human imperfection and frailty. The beauty of this CD is its unpredictability, as Treehouse gearshifts between odd time signatures and tempos, bursts of percussion and brass passages, multiple vocal harmonies and more. The performances are bright and enthusiastic, and the overall vibe of the album is that of a band having fun in the moment, frolicking with their instruments and letting the muse carry them. The result is a vibrant, enjoyable, and fresh listen. Treehouse tosses out the rulebook and conjures a musical adventure on Salt Upon the Stones that is innovative, captivating and pleasant. (The CD can be obtained through Treehouse’s website, www.treehousemusics.com.)

STARCHILD – VOLUME II (no label) On their first album, Volume I, Harrisburg’s StarChild established that they were touched by a Kiss, blending covers of ‘70s era Kiss classics with original songs unapologetically rooted in that same ‘70s classic Kiss vein. On their second set, Volume II, StarChild again proudly displays their Kiss influence with more Kiss-rooted original songs and updates of Kiss classics, but they also include some surprises on the disc’s eleven tracks. The voice and presentation of singer, guitarist and ringleader Jerry Martin again could convince listeners that he is the long-lost and forgotten brother of Kiss’ Paul Stanley. And Martin’s knack for emulating ‘70s era Kiss strongly informs his songcraft on original Kiss-like anthems such as “I’m Forever Young,” “One More for the Road,” “Her Amazing Grace,” “Twisted Star” and “King of Nite.” Martin and StarChild also tip their hat to their chief influence with a fleshed-out update of Kiss’ legendary ballad “Beth,” a resurrection of Kiss’ Hotter Than Hell deep cut “Comin’ Home,” and a rendition of Ace Frehley’s solo hit “New York Groove.” The remainder of Volume II presents a few surprises; such as bassist Sharon Starr flexing her vocal cords on a cover of a cover, giving her spin on the Joan Jett twist on Tommy James’ “Crimson & Clover.” Martin and StarChild provide an original ballad, “Take Away My Heart,” with a chorus that borrows a little from Alice Cooper’s late ‘70s hit “I Never Cry.” And StarChild celebrates Motown to close the disc, with a rocking rendition of Smoky Robinson’s “Get Ready.” As with their first disc, StarChild sinks full heart and passion into the songs on Volume II, and there is never any doubt that this group loves Kiss and their influence. Martin’s vocals are enthusiastic, and his delivery is spirited and in the moment, not contrived or forced. Produced by Martin and engineered by Derek Euston in Harrisburg’s Green Room Studio, the album again sounds appropriately raw and comparable to those legendary ‘70s-era Kiss albums. StarChild leaves no doubt about what band they pay homage to on Volume II; but by stepping outside their Kiss-like persona for a few songs, they show that they are not just a one-trick pony. (To obtain, visit StarChild’s Facebook page,www.facebook.com/StarChildBand.)

MONSTER TRACK SUPERGROUP – VOLUME II (no label) Monster Track Supergroup first surfaced three years ago, a regional “supergroup” of established north-central Pennsylvania musical names: White Witch singer Jeff Pittinger, Badlees multi-instrumentalist Bret Alexander and former Breaking Benjamin drummer Jeremy Hummel. These three musicians stepped outside the boxes of their respective primary band/musical endeavors to update four ‘70s-era classics on their self-titled 2011 EP. On their latest EP, Volume II, Monster Track Supergroup again lends their collective prowess to two more early ‘70s gems, and flexes their creative talents to bring two of Pittinger’s original song compositions to life. With Freeman White now joining the group on keys, Monster Track Supergroup presents reverent and accurate updates of the Paul Loudermilk-penned 1971 Paul Revere and the Raiders hit “Indian Reservation (Cherokee Nation), and Badfinger’s 1971 hit “Day After Day.” The original songs include Pittinger’s inspirational testimonial to weathering the storm and staying the course, “Take My Advice,” and the catchy disc-closing love song “Adrienne.” On the cover song material, the arrangements capture the spirits and tones of the original ‘70s versions, and full-bodied arrangements convincingly build and bring the two original songs to complete fruition. The instrumental performances are tight and enthusiastic; and Pittinger’s voice again displays clarity, fullness and range as he comfortably achieves the high notes and maintains a confident consistency throughout. Volume II reaffirms Monster Track Supergroup’s 1970s rock roots, but also reveals some creative spark and forward motion as the group begins to stretch their musical frontier. (The CD can be obtained through the group’s Facebook page, www.facebook.com/monstertracksupergroup.)

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