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CD Reviews – September 2017

BILL DEASY – TIMELESS THINGS (no label) Best known as the singer for Pittsburgh-based former national recording group The Gathering Field, Bill Deasy has built an impressive resume as not just a solo artist, but as a novelist as well. On his ninth solo studio album, Timeless Things, Bill again proves his ability to weave melodies, emotions and stories together into a captivating and listenable set. Bill taps the familiar American heartland folk-rock style, and applies his own personality and nuances to make that style his. Assisting Bill in this trek are the album’s producer, songwriter and Donora member Jake Hanner, who co-wrote several of the songs and plays drums; and guest performers Rob James of The Clarks on electric guitar, Noah Minarik (son of Clarks drummer Dave Minarik) on guitar, Anton DeFade on bass, and Clarks frontman Scott Blasey, Maia Sharp and Clark Slater on backing vocals. Opening the album, the vibrant title song “Timeless Things” celebrates the things in life that stay steady and constant while times and trends change. Darker in tone, “The Night Before” reflects on a farewell , while “Blood Red Moon” blends thoughtful observations about love with a shadowy sonic setting. Bill strikes reflective tones on the slower numbers “Then December” and the cavernous lament “I Stood Still.” Bill positions himself as a gambler in the acoustic-driven “Crapshoot,” and does some homecoming reminiscing on “1970s.” Layered guitars give a slight U2 vibe to “After All,” while the disc-closing “End of the Record Song” recalls Jackson Browne in tone, as Bill acknowledges the shifting of his creative mindset over the years. Consistent with his previous body of work, Timeless Things again reveals Bill’s thoughtful and literary lyrical style, and his ability to build deep and full-bodied arrangements to carry those words. His voice is warm and sincere, and he and his assembled cast of musicians give layers and textures to the songs. The album sounds consistent and cohesive, and flows like a steady brook. Timeless Things is yet another testimony to Bill Deasy’s songcrafting art, and is an album that reveals its depth and thoughtfulness over repeat listens. (The CD can be obtained through Bill Deasy’s website, www.billdeasy.com.)

 

13 SAINTS – CRUSHING COPPER (no label) Roaring out of Pittsburgh in 2016, 13 Saints delivers punch-in-the-jaw, unapologetic hard rock’n’roll on their 11-song debut album, Crushing Copper. Merging Rolling Stones bad-boy attitude with 1970s punk agitation, 13 Saints fire off fast, feisty, fist-raising, compact numbers with rebellious, reckless abandon lyrics. Guitarists Dave Buzard and Ernie Dirt and bassist Creep Newholland all share in singing duties, while drummer Chuck Shoulders (since replaced by Eric Corbin) provides the driving beats behind the songs. Smacking listeners in the mouth is the group’s calling card, the disc-opener “Deep,” which proclaims that this band is straightforward with their music and message, and doesn’t do deep song meanings. The group rebels against parents, authority and other control freaks on “Mother May I,” resolving to do things their own way. The high-powered “Evel Knievel” celebrates hard living, hard rocking and going for broke, while “Genius” proudly supports the rock’n’roll lifestyle and the ups and downs that come with it. In a bluesier vein, “Smile” tells listeners to take stock in being above ground each day instead of six feet below it, while “In My Head” gives a nod to southern rock tradition with some Allman Brothers-flavored guitar harmonies. The group updates the defiant rant “The Pledge,” which first appeared with Dave Buzard’s previous project, We Came From Space. 13 Saints delivers these songs with constant go-for-broke velocity; their execution is tight and their vocals appropriately edgy. Produced by the group, Crushing Copper sounds crisp and balanced, yet allows this band’s abrasiveness to radiate. The result is a satisfying, action-packed debut; 13 Saints’ Crushing Copper delivers a rowdy listen, and provides a suitable soundtrack for raising hell on a Saturday night. (The CD can be obtained through the group’s website, www.13saintsrock.com.)

MEDUSA’S DISCO – RIPE (ThoughtRock Records) It only takes a few seconds into “State of Mind,” the opening track to Medusa’s Disco’s third full-length CD, Ripe, to realize that this Lancaster-based foursome is anything but routine. Formed five years ago, Medusa’s Disco taps psychedelic-era hard and progressive rock roots and throws caution to the wind over Ripe’s nine tracks. The group – singers/guitarists Wynton Huddle and Hunter Root, bassist Ty Smith (recently replaced by Jason Shearer) and drummer Alex Aument – craft elaborate, adventurous and unpredictable musical adventures, and deliver them with feverish, go-for-broke intensity. Their tempo and chord shifts, variations in distortion and reverb, and often abstract lyrical themes bring to mind psychedelic stoner rock contemporaries like Queens of the Stone Age, classic rock adventurers like Led Zeppelin and Wishbone Ash, the quarkiness of Primus, and modern-day progressive rock adventurers like Porcupine Tree. Each track is its own journey, from the psychoanalytical ”State Of Mind” with its ever-changing intensities and nuances, to the erupting joyride “Twisted Dentist (Novocaine)” with its dental and mental metaphor, and the western tumbleweed-laced “Otherwise.” The group explores a 21st century schizoid King Crimson dynamic on “Atomic 7,” kicks up some surf with “Ode to SEEDS,” and gets their led out with the expansive ten-minute-plus finale “Beautiful Creature.” All four musicians show imagination and precision, yet boldly fire on all cylinders and hammer these compositions for all they’re worth. Huddle’s vocals never stay in one spot, intensifying from mild to hysterical without warning. While complex and busy, the melody lines of the compositions are solid and catchy. Produced by Huddle and David Patterson II, Ripe sounds balanced, crisp and deep, with creative use of reverb and distortion to supplement this group’s prominent retro vibe. This is a captivating, volatile musical adventure – Medusa’s Disco pushes their creativity to the brink with Ripe, resulting in an exciting joyride that will put listeners at the edge of their seats. (The CD can be obtained through the group’s website, www.medusasdisco.com.)

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