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CD Reviews – September 2016

Big_Atlantic2BIG ATLANTIC – TEMPERED (no label) Pittsburgh’s Big Atlantic introduced their progressive-edged brand of modern rock with their 2012 debut album Motive, and they elaborate on that approach with their sophomore effort, Tempered. Now the foursome of lead singer/guitarist Lee Caruso Jr., bassist Jeff Brinkhus, keyboardist/guitarist James Zamerski and drummer Nick Hufnagel; Big Atlantic continues to craft clever and detailed melodies with hooks that sink deeper into the cranium on repeated listens. Varied angles of guitar and keyboard attacks merge with innovative rhythmic passages and tempo shifts, all supporting alluring song structures over the disc’s thirteen tracks. These set the foundations for edgier lyrical terrain, as Caruso sings words about the struggle to survive and reaching the breaking point. The hard-hitting “Battling Chains” yearns to survive the nine-to-five grind, while the expansive “Count Me In” explores the breaking point and how seeds of revolution are planted. Other songs are more introspective; the REM-toned acoustic-driven disc-opener “Already There” accepts that things are as they are and cannot be changed. “Dig Deep” finds strength from within, “Perfection” accepts that perfection is an unreachable goal, and the disc-closer “This Life” resolves to stand ground and stay the course. The group crafts a love song with “Nattyudoo Caroline,” but dresses down deceit on the angrier “Starting Over.” The performances are strong and solid, and Caruso’s voice shows ample range, emotion and grit. Instrumentally the group’s execution is tight and versatile. The overall sound is balanced and full, letting the group’s melodies and chops do the talking without any excessive studio gloss. Big Atlantic finds a comfortable medium between brainy and catchy on Tempered, crafting an album that should satisfy fans of melody and technical ecstasy alike. (The CD can be obtained through the group’s website, www.bigatlantic.com.)

 

Whiskey_BurnWHISKEY BURN – DEVIL’S DUES (no label) Hailing from the Gettysburg area, Whiskey Burn introduces hard-drinking, hard-driving rock’n’roll on their first full-length CD,Devil’s Dues. The cast of singer Dana Maxwell, rhythm guitarist/singer Frank Maxwell, lead guitarist Frankie Reff, bassist Randy Bargar and drummer Chuck Weidler deliver crunchy, blues-rooted rock over the disc’s 11 tracks. The sound blends jagged rocking guitars and thundering rhythms, plus touches of punk vinegar and blues swagger. Dana and Frank share lead singing duties, giving the disc several angles of attack – including a Joan Jett-like strut on the rowdy disc-opener “Pulling Me Under” and the boozing anthems “Drink All Day” and the group’s title “Whiskey Burn,” plus channeling a George Thorogood bravado on “Church of Gageby” and the disc’s weighty title track “Devil’s Dues.” Whiskey Burn vents some punk-toned venom on “My Way FU,” amps up the raunch-rock factor with “Man in The Boat,” and concocts a slinky striptease anthem with “Sleazy Little Lucy.” The group slows it down a few times, on the rumbling power ballads “Stolen” and “The End,” and the acoustic-driven “Momma.” The performances are spirited and sincere, and exude a spontaneous, live feel. Produced and mixed by Andy Dulak, and recorded in two days at Fleshtone Studios, the CD sounds raw-edged but full, and flows as a whole cohesively. Whiskey Burn serves up a hard shot of rock’n’roll on Devil’s Dues, an intoxicating set that will leave a lasting burn on the cranium. (The CD can be obtained through the group’s website, www.whiskeyburn.com.)

 

Angry_Johnny_Stangry1ANGRY JOHNNY STANGRY AND HIS C.R.S. BAND – SIKE-O CD (no label) Angry Johnny Stangry has evolved into one of the noteworthy guitar names of the Pittsburgh area music scene during the past 17 years. With his current C.R.S. Band, Johnny displays his guitar skills along with a unique blend of blues-rooted flavors on the Sike-O CD. Citing Stevie Ray Vaughan, Eric Clapton, Roy Buchanan and Vince Gill among his influences, Johnny and his band – bassist Ryan Langley and drummer Greg Stewart – mix blues, country, rock, funk and jazz flavors over the disc’s dozen tracks. Blues and country merge to open up the album on “Straw Woman Blues,” and Johnny and band demonstrate a more tongue-in-cheek country flavor on the tunes “Pet Peeve” and “The Sh*t Has Hit the Fan.” They show a variety of rock-geared chops on the disc, including the jazz-informed “Perpetual Sin,” the retro-flavored “Born to Be True” and the hard Stevie Ray-ish “Sugarbush Queen.” They get the funk out with “I’ll Get Up” and the dazzling guitar-driven instrumental “Eccentric” to close the album. Johnny and company slow it down a few times as well, on the ballads “Longing” and “Where Would I Be in Love,” plus the extended electric blues of “The Cologne & Cracker Man.” Angry Johnny Stangry is front and center on the album, demonstrating his skills with impressive guitar displays as well as a crisp voice with ample range and cadence. He and his band serve each song, and the results are tasteful as well as dazzling. Engineered by David Granati ad Dave World Productions/Maplewood Studio in Pittsburgh, Sike-O CD sounds crisp and clear, and nicely balanced. Angry Johnny Stangry leaves an impressive calling card with this album, and his talents and musical variety provide an entertaining listen from start to end. (The CD can be obtained through the website www.angryjohnnystangry.com.)

 

endofsilence22END OF SILENCE – WAY OF THE WORLD EP (no label) Ending their silence after a hiatus from playing live music, guitarist Tim Jesiolowski and drummer Ed Piccolo assembled End of Silence in early 2013, adding bassist Jeff Lawrence and singer Trevor Schubert. The group soon began to collaborate on original songs, and the result is their five-song debut EP, Way of the World. End of Silence delivers a hard-hitting, riff-driven sound that blends current and classic rock flavors; the group channels influences such as Alice In Chains and Guns N’Roses into a fresh and distinctive style all their own. All five songs provide infectious hooks delivered with a forceful, bare-knuckled punch to the cranium that grabs and holds listeners’ attention. The band’s instrumental execution is tight and powerful, and Schubert delivers his cryptic words with a driving, gritty howl. The title track “Way of the World” addresses coming to grips with today’s reality, while “Try to Be Us” champions standing one’s ground, and “The Devil’s Cut” ponders the dynamics of temptation. “Heartbeat” and the blues-driven “Get Gone” lean more introspective. The performances are enthusiastic and full-throttle, and drive the songs home with a convincing wallop. Produced and engineered by Anthony Esposito and recorded at Obscenic Arts in Dillsburg, Way of the World sounds sharp, balanced and full. This EP provides an impressive calling card for End Of Silence that will leave fans of hard-hitting, melody-based rock anxious for more. (The CD can be obtained through the group’s Facebook page, www.facebook.com/officialendofsilence.)

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