CD Reviews – December 2023


Reviewed by Missy Trucker
The Prairie Benders’ self-titled debut album is a refreshing blend of alt-country and indie rock that is instantly satisfying and continues to charm you with each listen. Based out of Portland, Oregon, The Prairie Benders were formed by Jason Ferris (guitar, vocals) as a response to his urge to go back to his folk rock and songwriting roots after more than three decades in the PDX music scene.  Sarah Arnold (vocals), Meghan Coil (fiddle), Sean Fong (bass) and Chris Calvert (drums) round out The Prairie Benders bringing the band to life and delivering a modern folk sound with a blend of country overlays.

From the opening notes of “Musical Communication” you’re welcomed into the world of The Prairie Benders with a combination of warm harmonies and a fiddle that dances over a steady backdrop. The authenticity of the sound immediately sets the tone for an album that feels like a genuine exploration of life’s twists and turns. The fiddle, a staple in many of the songs, becomes a storyteller in its own right and carried me from track to track wanting to hear what comes next.

“I Know This Song” and “Time Machine” are standout tracks that exemplify the band’s ability to craft infectious melodies that leave you singing along and stay with you long after the music stops. “Keeper” and “Too Old to Dance” have a tender nature with a deep message and sense of vulnerability that leaves me feeling moved and introspective.  Ferris’s lyrical narratives feel personal, yet universally relatable, creating a connection between you and the stories being told.  “Faithful” and “How I Slept Last Night” felt like new-to-me songs with each listen and I appreciate their ability to draw me in a little further.  The infectious nature of the melodies, coupled with the sincerity of the performances, makes “The Prairie Benders” a compelling debut album in the alt-country, folk rock genre that invites repeated listens and a new favorite song each time. It has become my ‘go to’ CD in my truck – it’s a great album to get lost in…and…with. Check out for upcoming shows and to get your copy of the album.


Long established as a blues, soul and roots music artist, Harrisburg’s Nate Myers stretches into some different roots territories on his latest album, “Speakeasy Prophet.” Singing and playing acoustic guitar, harmonica and piano, Nate expands into New Orleans flavors, country, acoustic folk and folk-rock in addition to his established blues, soul and slight hip-hop accents over the album’s ten tracks. Joining Nate on this journey are a number of musicians; including longtime colleague Pete Netznik on guitars, octave mandolin and bass; Chris Purcell on guitars and vocals; Ralph “Puff” Sanchez on spoons; and the brass/woodwinds contingent of John Tuzza on arrangements, Kayla Keating on clarinet and sax, Matthew Landrum on trumpet, Connor Devlin on tuba, and Dominic Mascaro on trombone. The album also features the last recordings of Nate’s bandmate Chad Salvaggio, who passed away in January, 2021; Chad’s drumming is heard on most of the songs (with Chris “Nitzy” Heilig drumming on two tracks); the album is dedicated in Chad’s memory. Nate lyrically offers themes of self-reflection on several of the album’s songs; he taps a New Orleans jazz/blues-flavored vibe on the rousing album opener “Everything Will Be Alright” as he playfully acknowledges and laments past mistakes, peppered with Connor’s tuba accents. He also takes ownership of mistakes on the funky and sassy “Embrace It,” and offers a message of redemption and spirituality on the folksy ode “Heavy Rains.” The centerpiece of the album, the blues-powered title track “Speakeasy Prophet,” tells a story of life-defining encouragement offered from a ‘barstool pulpit.’ Athletic shoes serve as a metaphor for differing personalities in the lamenting, country-toned split-up number “Chuck Taylor,” and Nate expresses love and hope during the upbeat love ode “Little Drop of Sunshine.” Nate also sasses and disses surly folks on the funky “Mean People,” and serves up some rap-laced attitude on the feisty relationship number “RFC.” For a reverent finale, Nate returns to the Big Easy to close with “New Orleans Funeral,” a jazz and blues-driven tribute to Chad Salvaggio. These songs are captivating, as Nate infuses catchy melodies into each. He sings with soulfulness and purpose, convincingly conveying the gamut of emotions from happiness and love to guilt and sadness. He and his musical cast show skill and versatility, with the arrangements and performances serving the needs of each song. Recorded, mixed and mastered by Jason Shaffer at Full Tilt Studios in Harrisburg, this album sounds clean and balanced, with instruments, voices and nuances coming through clearly in the mix. Nate Myers’ mixture of rootsy musical styles, contemplative words and heartfelt performances makes “Speakeasy Prophet” a strong album and rewarding listen. (The album can be obtained and accessed through online retailers and streaming platforms.)


Originally from central PA but now calling Pittsburgh home, Sarah Halter is an aspiring heavy metal solo artist who has issued some initial recordings since 2021; her latest is a four-song EP called “The Doom That Binds Us.” Self-performed, self-produced and self-recorded, the EP introduces Sarah’s musical territory, as she blends elements of progressive, alternative, symphonic and death metal into a powerful presentation. Sarah constructs dark and dynamic metal-rocking foundations, serving as the backdrops for her lyrical forays into themes of dark emotions, mental confrontations, the natural world and more. She demonstrates a versatile voice that runs the gamut from smooth and melodic singing to savage death metal-inspired snarling. Each song displays a unique angle; “Scatter” launches the EP in dramatic fashion, as Sarah’s words compare the seasonal solstice to the seasons of hope and foreboding in the human mind. “Bad Touch” alternates between melancholy and savage textures as it conveys themes of longing and emotional pain. Sarah ponders the symbolism of a mysterious bird on the shadowy and milder-toned “Ravenlore,” and finishes with the thunderous title track “The Doom That Binds Us,” musing over a battle of emotional wills and which one will prevail. Sarah delivers intriguing melodies plus busy, vigorous arrangements to carry them forth. Mixed and mastered by Matt Very of Very Tight Recordings, this EP sounds appropriately forceful and balanced. “The Doom That Binds Us” presents Sarah Halter as a promising heavy metal innovator and creator, as she merges several metal music flavors into a potent style uniquely her own. (The CD can be obtained through Sarah’s website,, as well as through her Bandcamp page.)