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CD Reviews – October 2016

sourmash1SOURMASH – FIRST SHOT (no label)

Pittsburgh’s Sourmash started out in 2010 as a salute to classic southern rock, but evolved their original rock sound and identity and developed into a favorite of motorcycle festivals and events, and has opened for national acts such as Blackberry Smoke and David Allan Coe. FIRST SHOT is Sourmash’s debut offering, a six-song EP that introduces listeners to the group’s southern-rooted, hard-rocking sound. The group offers the triple-guitar threat of Tim Henry, Nick Farine and Ken Harnish (who also plays keys); along with bassist Dave Stanoszek, drummer Matt Knapp and singer Craig Harnish (since replaced by Pat Bono). FIRST SHOT’s songs range from rowdy, whiskey-soaked rockers to deeper, more sullen numbers; honoring the traditions of southern stalwarts like Molly Hatchet, Lynyrd Skynyrd and .38 Special. The disc-opener “Mr. Mayhem” sets the tone as a raucous ode to a troublemaker, paced by a driving beat and roaring wall of guitar sound. “Flesh and Bone” aggressively gallops along with its message of standing alone, while the tough rocker “Hard Road” offers the reminder that life isn’t easy. The slower “I Walk Alone” is introspective and builds to a thunderous chorus, and the group crafts a power ballad epic with “You Are Everything.” And Sourmash celebrates booze-running outlaws on the brazen closer “Cheap Wine and Moonshine.” Sourmash delivers these tunes full force and no holds barred, yet retains a smooth, melodic quality throughout the disc. The guitars snarl and roar, the rhythms pound, and Craig Harnish’s voice is strong and clear. Recorded, mixed and produced by Klint Macro at Cobblesound Recording in New Kensington, FIRST SHOTsounds full, sharp and balanced, allowing this group to bare their teeth without excessive polish or gloss. FIRST SHOT is a rowdy, fun first blast that should quickly convince listeners about what Sourmash is all about, the musical equivalent to a sourmash shot that goes down smooth but provides a hearty kick. (The CD can be obtained through the group’s website, www.sourmashrocks.com.)

 

annekachline4ANNE KACHLINE – PASSING PILGRIMS (no label) Anne Kachline is the bass player for longtime northeastern PA-based Christian-themed hard rock band X-Terra. Her third solo album, PASSING PILGRIMS is the culmination of a 14-year journey first started in 2002. Due to Anne’s busy schedule with X-Terra and other projects, the album was put on the backburner briefly, but was completed last year. The disc’s eight songs blend lighter-toned rock and folk flavors, resulting in a stripped-down sound that enables Anne’s straightforward voice and observational lyrics to take the spotlight. Anne’s songs address themes about coping with life and the world, often underscored with Christian and Biblical themes. The disc starts on an upbeat tone with “This Is My Song,” as Anne establishes her optimistic approach to creating music. One of two songs first recorded by X-Terra, Anne’s update of “How Long” displays a Celtic folk direction as it rides a conservational theme about how mankind is abusing and destroying the planet. The expansive “Torn in Two” examines the tug of war between ambition and common sense, and the resulting hard lessons learned through that war. The sullen “Ain’t Got Nothing Blues” affirms the adage that you can’t take material wealth with you in the end. Anne also gives a folk-rock makeover to another X-Terra number, “The Runaway,” and ends the disc with two newer compositions, “Always a Song” and “Creation Song.” Anne’s distinctive voice is consistent from start to end, and displays a style reminiscent of Annie Haslam of Renaissance and classic Grace Slick. Assisting her are X-Terra bandmates Bob Kachline on drums and Bill Hunt on guitar, with additional guitar from Chuck Paul. Produced by Anne and recorded at two studios, PASSING PILGRIMS sounds basic and uncluttered, allowing the simplicity of Anne’s forthright songcraft to shine through. PASSING PILGRIMS reveals Anne Kachline’s thoughts and musical vision, and offers an honest, heartfelt snapshot of her current creative mood. (The CD can be obtained through CD Baby, www.cdbaby.com.)

 

horehoundHOREHOUND – HOREHOUND (Blackseed Recordings)   Formed last year, Pittsburgh-based fivesome Horehound offer a booming, doom-laden heavy metal sound on their self-titled CD. Bassist David Westfall and drummer J.D. Dauer generate weighty, thunderous rhythms while guitarists Brendan Parrish and Mike Altopiedi (who has since left the group) levy distortion-laden power chord walls of sound. These set the terse backdrops for singer Shy Kennedy’s soaring, siren-like vocals, providing a unique dynamic and counterpoint that will intrigue listeners through the disc’s seven tracks. Early Black Sabbath and Saint Vitus come to mind through the slower numbers, especially as both guitarists push their distortion and reverb to the limits – evidenced especially on “The Dead Don’t Lie,” which intensifies and accelerates into a feverish homestretch. The group sets the tone for their doom metal adventure on the disc-opener “World to Come,” as well as the brooding “Crowns and Thrones.” The group picks up the tempo on the rampaging “Sangreal” and the powerful “Myope.” They blend softer, shadowy textures into the more detailed “Waters of Lethe,” and provide contrasting siren and snarl voices on the closing track “Waking Time.” Horehound’s sound is focused and direct throughout the disc, leaving no doubt about their terse musical angle. The group experiments with odd chord progressions, unorthodox melodies and varying intensities, keeping the attack sounding fresh throughout. Mixed and engineered by Matt Schor at the War Room, Horehound’s debut sounds full and thunderous, and the mix allows the group’s jagged edge to achieve full sharpness. Fans of doom and stoner metal will find plenty to celebrate on Horehound’s first salvo, a disc that sets the group’s foundation and leaves listeners anxious for a sequel. (The CD can be obtained through Blackseed Records’ website, www.blackseedrecords.com.)

 

empireindeclineEMPIRE IN DECLINE – THE RHYTHM OF REGRET (no label) Empire In Decline formed in 2013 from the ashes of popular northeastern PA-based rock group Plus 3. Singer/guitarist Michael Evans, bassist Ron Scavone and drummer Rick Carr forge ahead with a melody-based, guitar-driven sound on their debut CD, THE RHYTHM OF REGRET. The disc’s ten tracks feature a prominent rock foundation, blending elements of modern, alternative and classic rock. The group crafts catchy song hooks, topped with lyrics mainly dealing with relationship dynamics. “The Warning” provides an uptempo start to the disc, offering a slight hint of Gin Blossoms or Goo Goo Dolls. The group also displays a prominent ‘90s alt-rock vibe on “The Empire State,” “Sometimes We Outgrow Our Friends” and “Thickened Skin.” Heavier guitars drive the more classic rock-flavored “Don’t Say Anything,” the galloping rocker “Respect the Way It Goes” and the stern disc-closer “Do I Run?” Empire In Decline dabbles with a country edge on “She Broke a Nail,” and integrates a rockabilly-surf rhythm into “Spare Me.” The performances are solid; Evans’ vocals are steady and consistent, and the instrumental execution is tight and energetic. Each song is different yet alluring, and the album flows along as a cohesive set. Produced by the group and Bret Alexander, and recorded at Alexanders Saturation Acres recording studio, THE RHYTHM OF REGRET sounds smooth, full and polished, and lets the band’s authentic musical personality do the talking. This is a strong debut album; Empire In Decline establishes their musical turf on THE RHYTHM OF REGRET, and sets a sturdy foundation to expand upon on future offerings. (The CD can be obtained through the group’s website, www.empireindeclineband.com.)

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