Get Adobe Flash player

CD Reviews – May 2017

JUKEHOUSE BOMBERS – DEATH OR GLORY (no label) Indiana, PA’s Jukehouse Bombers introduced their brand of rugged electric blues four years ago with a debut five-song EP. They elaborate on that “down and dirty” blues foundation with their first full-length album, Death or Glory. The Jukehouse Bombers have expanded into a quintet, with new drummer Dave Vernot and guitarist Andy Kirsch joining the guitar-playing father-and-son tandem of Jimmy and Joe Roach plus bassist Troy Laney. Death or Glory finds the group mixing traditional-based, delta-styled electric blues with southern-fried and psychedelic rock, jump blues and more. Their songwriting is strong, their instrumental performances are feisty and inspired, and both Jimmy and Joe sing their hearts out, sinking total passion into their deliveries. The results make this exciting listening from start to end. The group follows their motorized “Arrival” with the jukehouse boogie anthem “Nothin’ to Lose,” showcasing Jimmy’s harmonica skills as he howls words about his individuality and swagger. The group’s dirty delta flavor shines prominently on the album, with the electric-driven “Burnt Biscuit” and its alternate stripped-down take “Raw Biscuit” to close the disc; also the Joe-fronted lowdown-toned “Evil I’ve Done” and the explosive “Rooster Gets to Crowin.’” Jimmy belts some slow blues with “My Dues Ain’t Never Paid” and Joe leads the group on the jump blues romp “Joe’s Jump.” The group wears their rock influences proudly; “Midnight Blues” taps a late ‘60s/early ‘70s psychedelic vibe reminiscent of Savoy Brown, Allman Brothers-styled harmony guitar leads highlight the pulsing instrumental “Silhouette,” and the Allmans and Blind Faith inform the Troy-composed, acoustic-driven “Winding Our Way Back Home.” The Jukehouse Bombers show mastery and versatility on their song material, and the group’s production, engineering and mixing enables electric, three-string cigar box slide and acoustic guitars to mix shine brightly and the rhythms to punch the songs home. Death or Glory leaves no doubt about the Jukehouse Bombers’ passion for the blues, and they make every note count from start to end. Fans of blues and blues rock will find plenty to celebrate here. (The CD can be obtained through the group’s website, www.jukehousebombers.com.)

SOFEYA AND THE PUFFINS – GENETIC CONFETTI (no label) Inspired by drum circles and the art/music festival circuit, Harrisburg-based songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Cynthia Beatty – alias Sofeya Puffins – collaborated with other musicians to form Sofeya and the Puffins in 2013. The group’s second recording, Genetic Confetti – offers a colorful mixture of indie rock and folk, blues, reggae, gypsy folk, worldbeat and more over its 10-track duration. Varying instrumental combinations color each song differently; Cynthia alone contributes guitar, ukulele, keys, ocarina (a flute-like wind instrument) and percussion to the mix. She shares lead singing duties here with David Gill, who also plays guitar and percussion; the remainder of this lineup is vocalist/percussionist Jamal Sawab, rhythm guitarist Cristion O’Leary Rockey and lead guitarist/bassist David Patterson. The group’s words cover themes of togetherness, the human condition and a touch of spirituality. The gypsy folk-flavored disc-opener “Decide” explores how personal perspectives shape decisions, while the David-fronted “Humans” hopes for humanity to become more humane and respectful of the natural world. The harder-rocking “Pay Attention” encourages listeners to be more observational and aware of life’s lessons, while the equally uptempo “Hard Time” likens love’s struggles to a prison stay. Sofeya and the Puffins celebrate happy dancing on the boogie-toned “Moonlit Night,” as well as happy times around a festival fire with “Firelight,” where elements of reggae and Latino musical flavors blend together. They also flex their blues muscles on the darker-toned social commentary “Night Owl,” and craft an Andean folk flavor on the ballad “Where Are You Tonight.” With a background that included college opera singing, Cynthia sings with authority and clarity; demonstrating range, cadence and personality in her performance. David’s broad and commanding voice also shines, particularly on “Humans.” The arrangements and mixture of instruments keeps this disc interesting from start to end, with no two songs sounding alike. Recorded, engineered, produced, mixed and mastered by David Patterson at Prava Creative Studios in New Holland, Genetic Confetti sounds crisp and full, and the performances take the spotlight without lavish studio gloss. Sofeya and the Puffins let their distinctive musical mixture shine on Genetic Confetti, and their unique, playful approach here is likely to win some new fans. (The CD can be obtained through the group’s website, www.sofeyaandthepuffins.com.)

DOCTOR SMOKE – THE WITCHING HOUR (Totem Cat Records) Situated in the Ohio Valley region near the Ohio-Pennsylvania border, Doctor Smoke taps doom rock/metal roots to grow their own heavy-hitting sound on their debut album, The Witching Hour. Lead singer/guitarist Matt Tluchowski, lead guitarist Steve Lehocky, bassist Cody Cooke (who has since taken over drum duties, with Kathryn Flesher now handling bass) and drummer Dave Trikones thunder out a heavy, aggressive metal rock sound anchored in the tradition of classic Black Sabbath, but stamp their own signature style and swagger on it over the album’s nine tracks. Rhythms rumble and boom, guitar riffs roar and tear, and Matt’s eerie Alice Cooper-like howl voices mysterious lyrical themes of supernatural phenomena, spirits and other things that go bump in the night. The disc chugs to life with the rampaging opener “The Willow,” documenting life’s final moments and a soul’s escape to freedom. The galloping “Blood and Whiskey” reveals a dark and tortured soul, and the expansive “Evil Man” leads an evildoer to the gallows. The group cranks up Motorhead-like velocity on “The Toll,” crafts gargantuan swagger on “The Seeker,” and welcomes guest saxophone player Mitchell Lawrence on the multi-tiered “From Hell.” Doctor Smoke combines melody, detail and groove throughout the album; the riffs and hooks are infectious, tempo shifts and time signatures don’t stay stationary for long, and their sense of groove in the right places gives these numbers drive and purpose. The group executes their song material with tightness and authority. The mix gives Doctor Smoke a big, cavernous thunder while sounding sharp and crisp. Start to finish, The Witching Hour delivers a powerful listen, and displays Doctor Smoke as a band that knows their turf and dynamic. Fans of well-executed, doom-esque heavy metal should find a lot to cheer for here. (The album can be obtained digitally through the group’s Bandcamp page, http://doctorsmoke.bandcamp.com, and the CD can be obtained through CD Baby.)

SKELL – EVERYTHING’S FINE EP (no label) Pittsburgh-based heavy metal stalwarts Skell were struck by the worst news any band could encounter in February, 2015, when drummer Keith Kweder died unexpectedly at age 32 from a sudden respiratory ailment. After much soul-searching, the group’s surviving members – founding guitarist Mike Palone and bassist Mike Ekis, plus singer Walter Wright – decided to soldier on with a new drummer (Jordan McClure, who left the group last November due to career reasons). Skell had been recording new music at the time of Keith’s passing, and their new EP, Everything’s Fine, serves as a tribute to their fallen bandmate, featuring four of the final songs Keith helped to create. The sound remains brute-force Skell heavy metal, powered by Keith’s powerful, rapid fire and intricate drum thunder and Mike Ekis’ stern, steady bass foundation. Mike Palone’s signature guitar roar is prominent, as well as his angular, drama-inducing chord progressions and innovative, surgically-precise, shredding leads. Against this turbulent backdrop, Walter’s vocals vary between fierce snarling and reserved singing, which sets up the dynamic on the disc’s captivating title song, “Everything’s Fine.” Two versions are featured; the expansive six-minute-plus version features an acoustic midsong interlude, and a shorter radio edit version closes the disc. The disc opener “Deaf Ears” and “Menschheit” (German for mankind, humanity) convincingly pound and pulverize, and with its play on words, “Loose Myself” sums up the disc’s prevalent lyrical theme of stepping away from the world and its drama to come to grips with one’s personal realities. The basic rhythm tracks were recorded by Sean McDonald at Red Medicine Recording, with Rob Deaner at Contagious Music producing, mixing and engineering the EP. The results sound full, crisp and clean, enabling Skell’s attack to achieve full impact. Everything’s Fine serves as a fitting sonic epitaph to Keith Kweder and his contributions to Skell’s body of work, and also serves as a statement that the group has come to grips with their loss and will continue on. (The CD can be obtained through the group’s website, www.skellrocks.com.)

Comments are closed.