CD Reviews – August 2018

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CHRIS RATTIE – PORCH (no label) Chris Rattie’s evolution as a songwriter, singer, musician and artist takes another step forward on Porch, his latest offering with his current band, the New Rebels. His songwriting prowess became known during his years with former State College country rockers The Rustlanders, and his 2013 album All These Things showed Chris baring his soul on changes he was enduring in life and musical career. His songwriting becomes more edgy and acerbic on Porch, as he weaves tales of life-hardening experiences and cynical realities, riding along nine sonic backdrops that blend elements of Americana, roots music, rebel country and hard rock. Playing bass, guitar, harmonica and Wurlitzer, Chris sings those tales with passion, acid and wit, assisted by New Rebels cast members Jason “Junior” Tutwiler on guitar, Forrest Schwartz on drums, and guest singers Natty Lou Race, Kate Twoey (both of Pure Cane Sugar fame) and Cory Neidig (of Grain). A duet featuring Chris and Natty Lou, “My Mountain” opens the album with a happier theme of two souls realizing bliss in a rustic setting. The dual-speed “Sparkling Stars” likewise is joyful, reflecting on happier memories of love and discovery. But uncertainty clouds such love on “Pick Your Pain,” with doubt looming over its future. The sullen “Prisoner 743” tries to pick up the pieces after life in a jail cell, the rowdy and raucous “Country Boy” busts on redneck arrogance, and shadows follow a wayfaring soul on the hard-edged disc-closer “Heading into Darkness,” channeling the Americana-rock styles of John Mellencamp and the Black Crowes. The melodies are cleverly crafted with distinctive arrangements that keep this album sounding fresh throughout. Chris’ vocal performances are riveting, as he invests emotion and grit into each tune; and he and his bandmates blend their instrumental talents well, giving color and personality to the compositions. Recorded, produced, engineered and mixed by Chris with his bandmates, Porch sounds rich and full, enabling the artistry and raw emotion of each song to shine through. Porch shows Chris Rattie’s growth as a songsmith, as he ponders life’s situations, questions and answers, and arrives at realizations and wisdom. (The CD can be obtained through Chris’ website,

SHATTERED – BLACKOUT SESSIONS (no label) First formed in Greensburg more than a decade ago, Pittsburgh’s Shattered brings a forceful modern rock and metal sound on their second album, Blackout Sessions. Over the disc’s dozen tracks, guitarists Erik Rhodes and Evan Schlegel, bassist Tim Noel and drummer Kevin Dick deliver a contemporary heavy-rocking sound that blends ‘90s and current rock flavors. Their stern backdrops of tough-rocking riffs and beats serve as the launch pad for singer Josh Comp (since replaced by Chris Taylor) to sing and vent rage on songs with mostly personal and confrontational themes. The angry disc-opener “Martyr,” the confrontational “Hell Bent” and “Blame” display a Godsmack-toned toughness, while “Love Hate Obsession” and “Paralyzed” channel a darker Alice In Chains-rooted texture. Shattered explores an acoustic-geared sound and a reflective theme on “Reckoning,” featuring some catchy vocal harmonies, and they also close the album with the acoustic ballad “Silhouette.” The group attempts a trickier, Tool-like arrangement on “Long Walk (Off a Short Pier),” and hammer full throttle on assaults like “These Gates” and “What You Reap.” The song hooks are direct and to the point, and Shattered’s forceful execution makes sure you are paying attention to each tune. Josh Comp’s blend of melody and aggression keeps things fresh and prevents the album from ever sounding routine. Recorded by Gregg Livengood, and produced by Livengood and the group, Blackout Sessions sounds visceral and thunderous, letting Shattered bare their teeth without unnecessary clutter or gloss. Shattered hones their heavy-rocking sound on Blackout Sessions, further defining their hard-hitting foundation and giving fans of current heavy rock a set well worth checking out. (The CD can be obtained through CD Baby,