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CD Reviews – February 2014

LARRY NATH – VISIONS AND REVISIONS (ELL Digital Media) Indiana, PA’s Larry Nath first introduced listeners to his fresh blend of rock and blues on his 2007 debut CD Live It!. His second album, Visions and Revisions, follows in a similar blues-rock vein, featuring more catchy and relatable songs, plus an assortment of special guests to help color and shape them. Nath’s one-time bandmate, Pittsburgh blues guitar great Jimmy Adler, appears on seven of the 15 songs, while Billy Price Band keyboardist Jimmy Britton tickles ivories on four numbers. Other guests include bassists D.J. Kichi and Dan Murphy, guitarist Jim Relja, drummer Brandon Barnes and vocalist Savanna Smith. The songs range from bouncy blues-rocking frolics and boogies to slower blues and acoustic numbers. Setting the tone for the album, the mid-tempo disc-opener “Visions and Revisions” ponders life’s daily questions and adjustments. The galloping “Your Killin’ Me” ogles an irresistible redhead, while the uptempo and boisterous “Big Girl” celebrates women of altitude. Nath and his associates deliver funky blues on “Hard Times,” and reference western PA heritage and history on the rolling ode “Gods of the Molten Iron.” Nath tones things down several times on the disc; including the delicate acoustic-geared love song “Mystery,” the hopeful Clapton-toned “Try a Little Love,” and the self-reassuring “Still Over You.” “Long Gone” is a hard-edged breakup song, and Nath expresses intensifying frustration and uneasiness on the disc-closer “Sometimes I Feel.” Nath delivers a solid, gritty voice that carries his words well, and he and his hired gun cast flesh out the song arrangements with clean, tasteful musicianship. Produced by Nath and recorded at ELL Studios in Indiana, Visions and Revisions sounds punchy, upbeat and vibrant; and listeners should detect the enthusiasm that went into its creation. Visions and Revisions further establishes Larry Nath as a legitimate songcrafter and artist, and it offers a rewarding, grooving listen. (The CD can be obtained through CDBaby.com.)

THE ARTS – SPIRIT WORLD (no label) Formed six years ago, Greensburg-based studio project The Arts is the brainchild of composers, multi-instrumentalists and graphic novelists Joel Sanders and Chris Vottero. As was the case with their previous album, 2012’s The Trinity System, The Arts’ newest set, Spirit World, provides a freewheeling and detailed instrumental listening adventure, as Sanders and Vottero explore frontiers of progressive rock, jazz, classical, folk and more. Each composition takes listeners into its own self-contained world, setting mood, atmosphere, plot and resolution; with the musicians’ varied instrumental mixtures providing colorations and tone. The majority of the disc’s seven tracks are expansive excursions; the shortest composition, the dreamy disc closer “The Secret,” clocks in at 4:08. Referencing a stone cross in France that symbolizes the world’s impending doom, “Cross of Hendaye” establishes a captivating mystique as it opens the disc, before erupting into an explosive, Dream Theater-like prog-metal arrangement. With its cavernous and atmospheric arrangement, the title track “Spirit World” sonically transports listeners into a supernatural scape. The Arts weave Emerald Isle folk flavors into the picturesque and angular “Celtic Tale,” construct a dramatic and cosmic arrangement on “Phantom Frequencies,” and seek out ghosts in the pseudo-funky “Haunted Carousel.” The disc’s most ambitious work, “Dreamcatcher,” takes participants into a world of Native American symbolism, rapidly-evolving and shifting prog/jazz/rock segments, ethereal new age interludes and more. Sanders and Vottero masterfully blend melody, dynamics, plot and variation into each composition to keep Spirit World interesting and moving; each passage and plot twist serves a purpose. The performances are skillful and tight, from precision guitar solos to full-bodied key and electronic fills and effects, rumbling and thunderous rhythmic passages and more. Produced by The Arts, the sound is clean and full, enabling these works to achieve their full power and majesty. A visit to The Arts’ Spirit World will yield an exciting and vibrant listening adventure from start to finish, and fans of progressive rock and metal flavors will find plenty to savor here. (To obtain the disc, email Chris Vottero at cvottero@comcast.net.)

JUKEHOUSE BOMBERS – JUKEHOUSE BOMBERS EP (no label) Formed from remnants of previous Indiana County blues rockers Four Day Crawl, the Jukehouse Bombers generate a similar bold and brash blues-rocking style on their self-titled, five-song EP. The singing, guitar-playing father-and-son tandem of Jimmy and Joe Roach, bassist/singer Troy Laney and drummer Mark Kephart blend various blues and southern-fried rock flavors into a robust, rousing set. The group sets the table with the fiery blues romp opener “Real Bad Feelin,’” with Jimmy Roach’s seasoned blues howl erupting and commanding attention. “Born to Hard Time” displays a swamp blues direction, complete with song-ending gospel-styled singalong. Joe Roach’s smooth and soulful voice helps give “Give” an Allman Brothers-like feel, while Troy Laney serves up good voice on the B.B. King/Robert Cray-flavored “Absolute Success.” The Jukehouse Bombers indulge their southern rocking jones on the rowdy closer “Last Ride,” conjuring memories of vintage Molly Hatchet and Blackfoot. The performances are passionate and energized, with the vocal and instrumental performances feisty and go-for-broke. The singing is heartfelt, the guitar solos sting and the rhythms rumble. Self-produced, mixed and mastered; the EP sounds edgy and full-bodied, with the performances doing the talking with minimal studio bells and whistles. The Jukehouse Bombers convincingly state their case on this sampler, serving notice that their boisterous blues and blues rock are ready for roadhouses across the state and beyond. (The EP can be obtained through the Jukehouse Bombers’ Reverbnation page, www.reverbnation.com/jukehousebombers.)

ANGELA DODSON – LONESOME TIME EP (no label) Roaring Spring native Angela Dodson first captured the attention of this reviewer when she was a teenager, crooning classic country songs during Altoona entertainer Dennie Huber’s annual “Crazy Fest” Amateur Youth Talent Show. She prospered during that annual event through her teen years, winning awards and growing her talents and confidence. After graduating college, she relocated to Nashville to pursue a career in country music. Her first recording, a five-song EP called Lonesome Time, announces Dodson’s arrival as a country artist. Writing/co-writing all five songs, Dodson’s style is loyal to Grand Ole Opry-era traditional roots country and rockabilly, with Patsy Cline, Hank Williams and Johnny & June Carter Cash serving as reference points. The disc was even recorded at Cash Cabin Studio, owned by Johnny Cash’s son, John Carter Cash, who is the disc’s executive producer. Dodson pays homage to the Man In Black on the punchy opening track, “They Called Him Cash,” and croons rural-flavored rockabilly on “Ready and Willing.” She offers up playful honky-tonk sounds on “Barnyard Jive,” laments the loss of love on the driving title track “Lonesome Time,” and closes the disc on a somber tone with the ballad “Trying to Matter.” Displaying a clear and confident voice, Dodson is backed by a who’s who of Nashville talent; including Marty Stuart guitarist Kenny Vaughan, Waylon Jennings/Highwaymen steel player Robby Turner, and former Brian Setzer Orchestra upright bassist Mark Winchester. Her songs are compact and efficient, establishing their catchy hooks quickly; and she carries them with grace and poise. Produced by Dodson and Chuck Turner, Lonesome Time sounds bright and full, with just the right touch of reverb to capture that vintage Grand Ole Opry/’50s-era rockabilly vibe.Lonesome Time is a convincing first chapter that shows that for Angela Dodson, classic country tradition is indeed alive and well. (The CD can be obtained through Angela Dodson’s website, www.angeladodson.com.)

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