CD Reviews – November 2018

HATE GRENADE – THE KING IS DEAD (no label) Altoona’s Hate Grenade returns with a volatile vengeance on their second full-length CD (and third recording overall), The King Is Dead. The Hate Grenade contingent of frontman Jeff Glace, guitarist Chuck Lavera, drummer Mike Powers and new bassist Donny Death detonates full fury over the disc’s ten tracks, picking up where their previous CD, 2015’s Pull the Pin, left off. But the group ups the ante, blending their nu-metal/rapcore aggression with a few new twists. Monk-like chants usher in the title track disc-opener, “The King Is Dead,” which detonates full force with pulsing guitar riffage, concussive drum thunder and Jeff’s raps and rage; the song is symbolic, with the ‘king’ representing forces that overpower people and must be countered and conquered. Hate Grenade bristles with renewed intensity on numbers such as “Burn,” “Reborn,” the cautionary “Watch Your Back” and “Bad Blood.” But Jeff interrupts his escalating outbursts with some singing on the chorus of the blistering “Temptress,” as well as the slower, forceful thunder of “Revelation.” And Hate Grenade indulges their hip-hop dynamic a bit further on the darker and introspective “Rue.” The song hooks work here, and the group’s arrangements and over-the-top explosiveness give listeners no choice but to pay full attention. Hate Grenade unleashes everything here, delivering maximum passion and intensity in their performances. Self-recorded and produced by the band, The King Is Dead sounds busy and caustic; the rhythms boom, the guitars snarl, and clever use of distortion and effects lends a chaotic dynamic to the overall sound, giving the album edge and unpredictability. Hate Grenade raises the bar on their visceral brand of nu-metal on The King Is Dead, in the process delivering their most impressive and incendiary set yet. (The CD can be obtained through the group’s website,

JEFF MAMETT – CARRY ME BACK (no label) Jeff Mamett established on his 2015 debut CD, Here’s Your Hat, that his music is rooted in the classic country and western traditions of Hank Williams, Guy Clark, Lefty Frizzell and others. Jeff firmly adheres to that traditional country sound on his sophomore outing, Carry Me Back, but takes that sound to some different frontiers over the album’s dozen tracks. The base sound is authentic, straightforward country, defined by simple, easy-to-digest song hooks, Jeff’s sturdy and cordial baritone voice, and his clear knack for lyrical storytelling. His songs often angle toward themes of simpler times and taking stock; the reflective disc-opener “Poor House Road” recalls warm memories from a meager childhood, while the relaxed “Take It Slow” shares life lessons about not hurrying and letting things take their due course. Love at first sight powers the upbeat honky-tonk of the catchy “Bing Bang Boom,” while a body movement inspires the playful Texas two-steppin’ “Jiggle in Her Wiggle.” Jeff uses clever wordplay to craft a story arc of mischievous childhood to family man on the folksy “Off and Runnin,’” and considers the time wasted dwelling on negative thoughts on the blues-toned “Spinnin’ My Wheels.” Tex-Mex flavors inform “Dark Spanish Eyes” with its prominent, driving beat, while Jeff dabbles in Cajun and zydeco elements on “Feels Like Love.” And for those who want some western with their country, there is the faster-paced disc-closer “An Outlaw’s Song,” which weaves a story of gambling, gunplay and outrunning the law. Jeff’s rich voice is front and center here, as his relaxed, assuring cadence sells his words and makes them sound sincere. Jeff’s friend and Trace Adkins’ pedal steel player, Wayne Addleman, produced the album, while three other members of Adkins’ band – drummer John Richardson plus guitarists Brian Wooten and Brent Wilson – help flesh out the sound along with the additions of fiddle, mandolin, accordion and backing vocals. The result is a strong, satisfying listen from start to end – Jeff Mamett carries the torch for country tradition on Carry Me Back, making classic-flavored country sound fresh and vibrant again. (The CD can be purchased through Jeff’s website,

13 SAINTS – TO THE FLOOR (no label) On their sophomore full-length CD, To the Floor, Pittsburgh’s 13 Saints resume their punk’n’roll party where their 2016 debut CD, Crushing Copper, left off. Guitarists Dave Buzard and Ernie Dirt (since replaced by Davey Child), bassist Creep Newholland and drummer Eric Corbin again deliver rowdy, punk-infused rock’n’roll over the disc’s baker’s dozen tracks. The songs are sharp and catchy, and ride the middle ground between Rolling Stones swagger and Clash and Iggy & the Stooges sass and attitude. As the group proclaimed on the first album, they “don’t do deep,” and thus the lyrics here are again straightforward and in-your-face, with touches of wry wit and cynicism. Some of their wordplays are classic; 13 Saints fights off old age on the boisterous opener “Woe Is Me,” battling to escape “…the land of candy and rocking chairs.” The group addresses today’s contentious society on “Laugh It Off,” with advice to chill out because “…everybody knows the score.” And on “Suburbs,” they salute dysfunctional life in the land of “strip clubs/strip malls,” just “kickin’ around the house/kickin’ around the spouse.” The group also channels classic Free as they dress down a drama queen on “Princess Calamity,” tip their hats to a 1970s glam/punk influence on the romping “New York Doll,” diss obsessive hurried-up lifestyles on “Godspeed,” and spit vinegar on those who ignore history’s lessons via the fast-flying disc-closer “History of Present Illness.” 13 Saints plays these songs with purpose; the rhythms jump, the guitars snarl, and the vocals sound appropriately acidic and ascerbic. Produced by the group and recorded at Very Tight Recordings, To the Floor is raw and direct, leaving the songs and performances do the talking with minimal studio polish. To the Floor offers all-out, accelerated rock’n’roll fun, as 13 Saints put pedal to the metal and spit out some vinegar and attitude along the way. (The CD can be purchased through the group’s website,

STEVE TREADO – NOTHING (no label) State College’s Steve Treado can be seen on central PA stages singing, playing bass and keys with the rock band Jampact. He is also a singer and songwriter as well. Part of a dual CD release earlier this year with the companion album Heart of Stone, Nothing helps introduce listeners to Steve’s distinctive mixture of folk and blues stylings. Steve croons with a smooth, sturdy, mid-ranged voice, and plays guitar, keys and other instruments through the album’s dozen tracks. His songs blend flavors of blues and folk, with slight touches of rock and spiritual flourishes. A number of his lyrics follow themes of weathering and recovering from adversity; the title track “Nothing” gently opens the album relating a story of lost hope following lost love. Meanwhile, the folksy “Rainfalldown” suggests rain as a cleansing of sadness and wounds, and every new day as a new beginning. Steve shows his storytelling abilities on the catchy combination track “Room2Roam/Tennessee Grin,” weaving a “Rocky Raccoon”-like narrative about dueling suitors. A doomsday scenario informs the stern “Apocalyptic Blues,” while “Is It Over” looks to the sky for answers. Steve also taps into a spiritual blues flavor on “Hold Steady on That Line” and the disc’s hopeful closing number, “Glory Bound.” The songs are solid and alluring, and Steve’s performances on voice and instruments are strong throughout. Self-recorded and produced, Nothing sounds clear and full, varying between simple acoustic arrangements and deeper, more orchestrated mixes. Overall, this CD works as a cohesive set; Nothing provides a look into Steve Treado’s musical realm, and establishes him as a capable songwriter with a strong foundation in blues and Americana. (The CD can be obtained through Steve’s website,

WILLOW HILL – HIGHWAY ONE EP (no label) Willow Hill is the country-driven alter ego of Lovebettie’s leading couple, guitarist C.T. Fields and singer/keyboardist Alexandra Naples. The Pittsburgh pair’s debut EP, Highway One, introduces five songs that explore the country-pop-rock frontier. While the musical flavor is decidedly different from Lovebettie’s brand of “swagger rock,” Willow Hill still delivers some swagger, as well as other similarities to the mothership project. Alexandra’s powerhouse voice is still front and center, and sounds easily at home in country twang. C.T.’s guitar work still sounds hearty, and – assisted by a cast of Nashville hired guns, plus produced by Zach Abend and executive producer Jeff Cohen (who has worked with Sugarland, Big & Rich and The Band Perry) – Willow Hill sounds strong and confident. The disc’s opening track, “Don’t Let the Door Hit Ya,” packs punch as a thundering, catchy country rocker with Alexandra delivering vocal sass and vinegar while giving the bum’s rush to a lying, unfaithful drunk. (A radio-friendly version of this song ends the EP.) Alexandra’s piano tones help anchor the more wistful “More Like a Memory” and its theme of longing and heartache. Alexandra displays her dynamic vocal range and soulfulness on the ballad “Can’t Have My Best,” and the group picks up the tempo on the country-rocker “Don’t Threaten Me with a Good Time” and the punchy “Bullet.” The performances are lively, inspired and tightly executed; while the mix sounds full, clean and polished. Highway One establishes a new adventure for C.T. and Alexandra, and Willow Hill’s opening chapter is a competent, promising foray into country flavors. (The CD can be obtained through the website