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CD Reviews – May 2018

CHRIS BELL 100% BLUES – BAPTIZED BY THE BLUES (Silverbridge Records) “…I learned from the Bible and the belt” is testimony offered up by Chris Bell on the soulful opening song and title track of his latest CD, Baptized By the Blues. After exploring the Americana and country sides of his musical persona on his last album, Bell Countyline, Chris returns to indulge a variety of blues flavors over Baptized By the Blues’ 13 tracks. Blues provides the launching pad for Chris to explore a myriad of styles, and as a result, no two tracks here are the same. Chris explores familiar blues themes as well; struggling to make ends meet on the shadowy shuffle “Paycheck to Paycheck,” showing resilience on the jazzy blues of “Second Wind,” and cautioning about a hard part of town on the hard-rocking “Shantytown.” Alcohol isn’t enough on the folk/country-toned “Whiskey Ain’t Workin,’” life’s burdens overwhelm on the dark slow blues of “Elevator to Heaven,” and Chris states his lovin’ credentials on the Memphis-flavored “I’m Your Man.” Chris sings his words with grit, confidence and swagger, and he displays his string-bending skills prominently throughout the album with scorching solo work and creative use of tones and effects. He displays his dexterity on a broad range of other instruments as well, including bass, mandolin, piano, organs, harmonica, tambourine and drums. His melodies are strong and concise, and his arrangements build, surround and support each melody. Recorded, produced and engineered in State College by Chris, Baptized By the Blues sounds clean, crisp, busy and full. Baptized By the Blues, Chris Bell displays his credentials as a seasoned performer on this album, and delivers a strong, sturdy and edgy set. (This CD can be obtained through Chris’ Reverbnation page and CD Baby.)

ONE ADAM 12 – SOPHOMORE JINX (no label) As the title suggests, Sophomore Jinx is the second full-length album from Cambria County-based rock quintet One Adam 12. Their 2016 debut album, Earworm, introduced One Adam 12’s unique musical world, as the group blended elements of hard rock, metal, punk rock, surf rock, and horror movie-themed soundbytes and lyrics. That blend largely continues on Sophomore Jinx, at an overall faster clip. Punk-fueled rhythms drive many of the songs, courtesy of the powerful tandem of bassist “Mad Dog” Joe Stiles and drummer Brandon Adams. Lead singer Lloyd Rummell and Bill Stiles provide chugging guitar riffs and solo work; and as he did on Earworm, Tony Dostal’s timely use of soundbytes and digital effects add depth and mood to the songs. Lloyd’s distinctive, bold singing voice is front and center on each song; he sings about moving forward and not stagnating on the disc-opener “Stepping Out,” and continues that restless theme on the fast and boisterous “The More Things Change.” Lloyd exudes the joy of being abducted by a UFO on “Walking on the Moon,” and expresses the amorous hopes of Frankenstein’s monster on “Build Me a Bride.” One of the album’s most memorable moments is a tersely-framed montage of Jack Nicholson’s Col. Jessup rant from the film A Few Good Men, leading into the defiantly-themed rocker “Bullet Proof.” Kazoos help set the initial whimsical tone of the punchy “I’ll Wait,” and Lloyd gets inside the head of Jack the Ripper on the album-closer “Legendary.” One Adam 12 again shows their knack for strong, catchy melodies, as many of these tunes are serious threats to ‘earworm’ their way into your cranium after first listen. The performances are energetic and purposeful, and Lloyd’s power, range and clarity make each lyric understandable. With Brandon Adams handling the recording, mixing and mastering, the album sounds crisp and well-balanced, with instruments, voices and soundbytes coming through clearly. One Adam 12 strengthens their resume with Sophomore Jinx, a catchy, clever and captivating set well worth checking out. (The CD can be obtained through the group’s Bandcamp page.)

TUKURPA – HIDDEN BROKEN PIECES (Canadian American Records) First surfacing from the Harrisburg area a decade ago, Tukurpa has forged an intriguing career and musical approach. Named after a Hopi Indian word for an eternal dream world, Tukurpa blends a variety of musical angles, Hopi Indian philosophy and social commentary on their new full-length CD, Hidden Broken Pieces. The group’s longtime core of bassist Carl “Craig” Hancock, guitarist Matt Kramer and drummer Chris Arnold, plus more recent addition Jamey Reisinger on lead vocals, keys and violin, mix elements of hard rock, progressive, classical, folk and psychedelic rock into a captivating set that never stays in one place for too long. Jamey’s siren-like vocals and distinctive phrasing are front and center for much of the album, and her classical-styled piano frequently provides interesting contrast and counterpoint to Tukurpa’s hard-rocking tendencies. The songs are often elaborate, varying textures, tempos and intensities, and featuring cryptic lyrics, spoken word passages and more. Hard rock provides Tukurpa’s primary foundation, and the group displays their rock thunder on the disc’s opening trio of “Dream of Me,” “Leprechaun” and “Angel.” They generate a hard-rocking waltz on the domestic abuse-themed “Picture Frame,” and conjure a symphonic heavy metal flavor with the stern-toned “Sacrifice.” In a milder tone, Tukurpa worries about the planet’s future on “Wonder Why,” ponders relationship dynamics on “You Change – I Change,” and considers a tough decision on the disc-closing “Circumstance and Evidence.” For some different flavors, the group dabbles in Jewish klezmer music on “Happy Tune,” and channels 1960s-era psychedelia on “Blue Skies.” Tukurpa delivers nuanced performances throughout the album, and their attention to detail – both instrumentally and vocally – becomes apparent with repeated listens. Engineered by Marshall Deasy IV and Ken Matson, the disc sounds deep and clear. And coupled with conceptual sketched artwork on the cover, this album both sonically and visually provides plenty of mystique. Tukurpa demonstrates their unique artistry and vision on Hidden Broken Pieces, in the process establishing themselves as a rock band that defies labeling or convention, and pursues their own distinctive muse. (The CD can be obtained through the group’s website, www.tukurpa.com.)

 

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