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CD Reviews – May 2015

MATT PLETCHER – SURE THING (Made In America Records) Hailing from the southern Blair County farm belt, Matt Pletcher has been playing guitar since age 7, and first rose to regional prominence as guitarist and songwriting collaborator with popular Altoona-based country artist Ricky Lee. He started performing as a solo acoustic artist in 2012, and soon went to Nashville to record his first full-length album, Sure Thing. Country is the prominent flavor through Sure Thing’s ten tracks, but Pletcher with his hired gun Nashville cast incorporate other flavors into their country mix, while showing a clear knack for song hooks and easy-to-digest, relatable lyrics. Showing a Gin Blossoms-toned edge, the driving country-rock title track “Sure Thing” launches the album with words of both anticipation and apprehension. Pletcher mixes some funk into his country on the breakup ode “On My Own Again” and the edgy dance floor number “Wanna See You Move.” He explores the ups and downs of love on several tracks, expressing devotion on “For You” and the rural R&B of “Anytime, Anywhere,” but lamenting breakups and sudden solitude on the tear-in-beer ballad “Handle Me” and the groove-infused “On My Own Again.” Pletcher mourns on the somber “I’ll Be Seein’ You,” reflects on past love interests on “When I Think About You” and “16 Again,” and muses about a night out on the upbeat disc-closer “Something I Can Dance To.” Pletcher’s voice is smooth and hearty as he radiates gusto into his song material. His instrumental cast gives spark and consistency to each song, supporting the melody and mood of each piece. This cast smoothly and subtly blends the variety of styles into a cohesive, country-flavored set. Recorded in both Nashville and at Altoona’s Data Music Services, Sure Thing sounds polished and radio-ready, and the mix and production enable the performances to do the talking. This disc proves that Matt Pletcher’s arrival as a competent and talented singer, songwriter and performer is a Sure Thing, and this introductory set should earn him fans and attention. (The CD can be obtained through Matt Pletcher’s website,

THE LAMPSHADES – NUMBSKULL NOTHINGHEAD (Soapbar Records) Originally Altoona-based but now calling Pittsburgh home, the Lampshades began their musical sojourn as teenagers in 2003. After some initial CD’s, the group took a hiatus in 2009, returning three years later and recently issuing their latest CD, Numbskull Nothinghead. Singer/guitarist Jaren Love, bassist Chris Kibler and drummer Dane Adelman offer a stripped-down, chaotic brand of indie pop/punk over the disc’s 13 tracks. The sound suggests a nerd-rock Nirvana after a recording studio encounter with George Martin or Brian Wilson. Distortion abounds, melodies take awkward twists and turns, and Love’s vocals often sound like he’s hanging on for dear life as he muses about youthful restlessness and the perils of decision-making. But the song hooks are largely catchy, and the group subtly merges doo-wop choruses with chaotic bursts of distortion and feedback, unexpected appearances of brass instruments and even a dialup internet solo during the disc-ending “Bored.” The overriding theme of indecision and uncertainty kicks in on the disc-opening “Floating,” and Love ponders living locales on the numbers “Atlanta” and “Baltimore.” An apparent break-up informs the words of the speedy “Doesn’t Matter Now,” while “Liberty vs. Security,” “I’d Rather Just Neglect,” “Keep On Moving On” and “Restless” all document decisions to move forward, stay put or go it alone. The incendiary title track “Numbskull” resolves that individuality trumps all, and to be one’s own person moving forward. As quarky and chaotic as these songs are, as a total album it all works; the melodies do have purpose, and the band slams them forth with reckless abandon. Love’s detached, sometimes unsure vocals serve the song themes well, and the unexpected production curios keep the disc interesting throughout. The Lampshades further define their unique musical niche on Numbskull Nothinghead, providing a listen that is jagged and chaotic, yet catchy, listenable and entertaining. (The CD can be obtained through the group’s website,

THE REACH AROUND RODEO CLOWNS – ROCKABILLY DELUXE (Lanark Records) The Reach Around Rodeo Clowns have been spreading their roots rock vibe across the country and around the world since 1995. The Lancaster-based group’s sixth album, Rockabilly Deluxe, offers a ten-song joyride that mixes a variety of upbeat flavors from across the roots rock spectrum and beyond. Founding siblings Wendell Jones on vocals and Quentin Jones on guitar, bassist Crusher Carmean and drummer Dave Ferrara attack the songs with an enthusiasm and vigor similar to the early rock’n’roll pioneers, often packing an edgy punk kick to drive the songs along. The Clowns set the disc’s tone with the rowdy rock’n’roll opener “King of the Slot Car Track,” firing on all cylinders in a punchy romp. The group shows their swagger with several bold struts, including “Paranoid Boy,” plus the saxophone-tinged numbers “Long Gone Daddy” and “It’s Rock & Roll.” Surf rock is a prominent flavor as well, as the group rides the edge with “Wild, Crazy and Out of Control” and “I Got the Shakes,” and they reference classic hillbilly-toned Elvis on the playful “Bowling Alley Baby.” “I’m Obsessed” shows more of a punk-driven demeanor, and the disc-closing “The Light So Bright” incorporates some psychobilly chaos into the mix. For a surprise twist, the group presents a Tex-Mex, pseudo-polka flavor on the brass-powered “I Used to Be the One.” The performances are crisp throughout; Wendell Jones’ voice shows good range, personality, clarity and versatility in handling the range of song material, and Quentin Jones’ guitars capture the tones of late 1950s and early 1960s rock’n’roll. Carmean’s thumping upright bass and Ferrara’s snappy drumbeats give each song the needed punch. Recorded on analog and digital equipment at Lanark Records Studio in Lancaster, Rockabilly Deluxesounds full and captures the cavernous atmosphere of early roots rock, yet allows the band to bare its teeth and show its bite. The Reach Around Rodeo Clowns celebrate rock’s roots on Rockabilly Deluxe, while stamping their own signature and raucous attitude to deliver a fun, rambunctious listen. (The CD can be obtained through Lanark Records’ website,

KLOCKWICK – DEVOLUTION OF TYRANNY (no label) Klockwick was formed in 2012 by three seasoned performers from the Blair County metal, punk and hardcore community. On their debut disc, Devolution of Tyranny, lead vocalist/bassist Josh Brubaker, guitarist/backing vocalist Dave Charlton and drummer/backing vocalist George Phillips forge a distinctive melody-based spin on classic and thrash metal rooted in the traditions of early Metallica and Pantera, but top it with a charged lyrical edge that tackles some of today’s social and political issues. The group is mad about loss of personal freedoms and dysfunctional government; the tense “Birthright” fights the fight for personal freedoms, and rails against the perceived police state condition of modern day American society. “Winds Of Change” warns that America’s situation is approaching the breaking point, and that something eventually is going to have to give. And the Sabbathy disc-closer “Sway the Wicked” condemns government ineptitude and abuse of power as it warns of a nation teetering on the brink. Other numbers are more contemplative; “Fear” explores insecure emotions, while “On High” ponders the afterlife. Klockwick likes their fun, too, with “It’s On” extolling the virtues of a drinking party in the woods, while “Radioactive” celebrates the moment the group takes to the live stage. The songs show definitive melodies and alluring riffs, and the group’s mixture of fast and slow tempos works to prevent most of this set from sounding monotonous. Brubaker’s scathing howl drives forth the group’s cutting-edge commentaries; effectively backed by their multi-speed, roughshod metallic rumble. Recorded in a home studio and produced by the group, Devolution of Tyranny displays a consistent thunder and jagged edge; some spoken-word vocals get buried in the mix, and there are occasional uneven spots. But overall, this is a respectable debut; Devolution of Tyranny defines Klockwick’s distinctive style and stances, and introduces listeners to a hard-hitting band with something to say. (The disc can be obtained through the group’s Facebook or Reverbnation pages.)

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