It’s no secret that some of the better music being recorded these days is coming out of our own backyards, from local bands recording with local producers in studios tucked away in downtown lofts or basements or someone’s garage.
Enough worthwhile albums are being made by bands from Kansas City and Lawrence that it’s worth keeping track of them on a regular basis. It’s not even the end of May, but already a significant number of new recordings have been released this year from local bands. Here are 10, plus recommendations for seven more.
We start off with a contender for one of the best albums of 2013, local or otherwise.
The Grisly Hand
The charms on this full-length album are many, starting with the writing. The band comprises three songwriters, which explains the diversity in dynamics and style, in a Fleetwood Mac “Rumours” kind of way: three perspectives on love, loss and heartache.
The other charms: The production by Joel Nanos at Element Recording Studio is stellar. The vocals are outstanding, whether Lauren Krum is singing soulfully over her own lone piano accompaniment (“Blind Horse”) or locked in perfect harmonies with Jimmy Fitzner (“Any Other Way”) or Ben Summers (“Municipal Farm”). And the band behind it all is stout and steady.
“Singles” is a collection of old-time flavored country tunes, but the variety over 12 well-crafted songs is its greatest virtue, from breezy ballads to romping country-swing anthems to the swaying country-folk numbers. More and more, it reminds me of “Furnace Room Lullabys,” a Neko Case classic that never gets old, a destiny this album seems likely to share.
“Country Singles” is available at thegrislyhand.com and at all local record stores. See the Grisly Hand on Friday at Take 5 Coffee + Bar and June 5 at Ink Student Night at Kauffman Stadium.
‘Darkly Sparkly’ (EP)
Tiny Horse is the folk duo Abigail Henderson started with her husband, guitarist Chris Meck, after cancer treatments diminished her rock-star voice. That voice may be weathered, but it is still soulful and resonant, the expression of a fighter and a survivor, someone who has returned from the edge of the big abyss.
The mood of “Darkly Sparkly” resembles several moments on “Blue,” the melancholic album by Lucinda Williams. That may be no coincidence. She is one of Henderson’s music heroines. She and Meck assembled behind them an all-star Kansas City band: Cody Wyoming on guitars and keyboards, Zach Phillips on bass, Matt Richey on drums.
Their music is a mix of shimmery electric folk and dusky Americana, much of it embroidered elegantly by Meck’s guitar lines, which have an ear-catching voice all their own. Several times, his playing evokes the styles of Bo Ramsey and Blake Mills, two of Williams’ guitar aces. It all embellishes an album that is ultimately a bittersweet ride over five heartfelt tracks, an odyssey of sorrow and love, darkness and hope.
“Darkly Sparkley” is available at Vinyl Renaissance and at Tiny Horse shows. See them May 29 at the Riot Room opening for Seawolf. The group will perform as a duo June 5 at the Brick.
The music is rock and country, the way the two were conjoined in the late ’60s and early ’70s, when bands like the Flying Burrito Brothers were popular. But other styles and accents, from folk to jazz, distinguish the music of Dead Voices from what eventually evolved into what is now called alt-country.
David Regnier is the lead singer, and his voice is suited perfectly for the music here; there is something distinct and cosmic about it, as in the way Jay Farrar’s identified Son Volt or Uncle Tupelo.
He is backed by a band of ringers, including the inimitable Marco Pascolini on guitar and Mike Stover in pedal steel, who add filigrees of psychedelia. The highlight of its six tracks: “Pardoning,” an ode to Gram Parsons featuring Lauren Krum on vocals. It’s not Parsons and Emmylou Harris, but it’s damn close.
“Dead Voices” is available at Vinyl Renaissance, Mills Record Company, Zebedee’s RPM and Prospero’s Books, online at CD Baby and at Dead Voices’ shows. See Dead Voices open for Night Moves on July 17 at the Riot Room.
Cherokee Rock Rifle
A blast of bare-knuckled hard rock, blues-based but steeped in punk and classic metal. Dutch Humphrey is the lead screamer, and for six tracks and 25 minutes or so he roars atop a relentless four-piece assault of guitars and percussion.
The weather changes enough from track to track to spice things up. The opener, “Loose Talk/Noose Talk,” starts off as a slow-burning electric Delta blues number, then bursts into flames at the end. “Dead City Girl” feels like a mashup of AC/DC and Radio Birdman. Good stuff from one of the best hard rock bands in town.
“Ta-Li” is available online at iTunes, Amazon, Bandcamp and streaming on Spotify. See Cherokee Rock Rifle open for Torche and Kenmode on May 30 at Czar Bar.
The Silver Maggies
‘My Pale Horse’
This is a country-western album, but not the kind associated with Nashville. Rather, “My Pale Horse” is a gathering of gothic country songs with spaghetti Western accents, the sounds of the Southwest, where cactus blossom and Joshua trees grow. The Maggies are a seven-piece group with two primary songwriters, Patrick Deveny and Terrence Moore, formerly of American Catastrophe, and an ace band adding a kaleidoscope of colors and sounds.
“Horse” is an evocative, cinematic guitar-centric album stocked with songs about murder and arson and betrayal — a long day’s journey through the dark moments of a heavy, battered heart.
“My Pale Horse” is available from the band and at moneywolfmusic.com. See them June 14 at Coda Bar and Grill.
Ben Grimes is a talented songwriter. He’s also a vibrant frontman for one of the best live bands in Kansas City. “Blank City” is a showcase of his band’s knack for forging all the fundamental elements of durable pop and rock — melody, dance rhythms, guitar hooks, harmonies — into concise, invigorating pop songs. Its 11 tracks come and go in 31 jaunty, funky and groovy minutes. Only one song exceeds three and a half minutes; one comes in under two.
Grimes has an overt Bowie fetish, and Talking Heads come to mind more than a few times. So does Roxy Music. But there’s more than those influences going on throughout “Blank City,” which unleashes a variety of moods and atmospheres.
The flashy, deep-groove stuff is irresistible: “Pregnant Actress,” “Funky Friends Breathe OK?” and “Moving in Time.” But there are some ambient moments, too, like the hypnotic closer, “A Hysterical Woman,” which features a skronk-y sax solo. Like the rest of the album, its brevity will only leave you wanting more.
“Blank City” is available at iTunes, Amazon and other digital retailers. Vinyl copies can be pre-ordered from the Record Machine website.
The opener, a 100-second intro called “All Over,” sounds like homage to Ricky Nelson singing “Lonesome Town,” but it’s Konnor Ervin singing a winsome acoustic-folk song.
But that’s a guise. The ensuing 25 or so minutes are a bubbly barrage of studio pop with more than enough inferences and influences to mention, a cocktail with references as old as the Beach Boys and Beatles and folk-pop bands as contemporary as Lord Huron.
There’s something triumphant about songs like the very summery and wistful “Feel Winter,” an uplifting midtempo ditty buoyed by supernal vocals and jangly guitars. The song’s only flaw is its length. It’s gone within 150 seconds. “Ocean” follows, three-plus minutes of neon-pop that invokes several eras of pop music.
“Leaves” is a departure from previous ACBs recordings. There is more composition, more layers and details and décor. The results are rewarding. It’s an album that divulges new facets, flourishes and flavors with each listening.
“Little Leaves” is available on vinyl and CD at Zebedees, Vinyl Renaissance and Love Garden. Order online at highdiverecords.com. Digitally, it’s on Bandcamp, iTunes and streaming on Spotify. The ACBs play a free show Saturday at the Riot Room as part of the Golden Sound Records’ “On the House” series, which Ink sponsors.
The Blackbird Revue
This four-song EP lives up to its name. The Blackbird Revue is wife and husband Danielle and Jacob Prestidge with percussionist Joseph Peaks. Their sound is lovely: a mix of Alison Krauss, Nickel Creek and Civil Wars, an assimilation of folk and country. It’s all melodic and well-crafted, midtempo and melancholic. And their harmonies can be deadly. Here’s to another four songs. Or more.
“Glow” can be purchased on iTunes, Amazon, CDBaby, theblackbirdrevue.com and at live shows. The band plays live in-studio on KKFI 90.1 FM today between 10 a.m. and noon on the Wednesday MidDay Medley. See them with She’s a Keeper on Saturday at the RecordBar.
‘What’s in Between’
The release of this album was noted in the AV Club, the straight-faced music domain of the satire-news magazine the Onion, but not for comedic reasons. The Pedaljets were a cult band in the early- to mid-1980s that kept good company, as in Hüsker Dü and the Replacements.
“Between” is the band’s first album since “Pedaljets” in 2008. To say it’s more of the same is reassurance: Mike Allmayer can still write songs with melody and big choruses and sturdy bridges and turn them over to a band that gives them calluses and heft. It’s all loud, groovy and tuneful, full of riffs and big choruses, between heavy rock and an indie-pop place.
The opener, “Take Me Back,” is full-bore, double-barrel country blues: a fusillade of slide guitar, fiddle, drums and feral vocals. The ensuing track, “Devil’s Heavy,” is a stormy blues shuffle, an anthem about reckoning and penance.
Cadillac Flambe is Kristopher Bruders and his spouse, Havilah Bruders. His voice is gritty and grimy, hers is satiny and soulful. The combination of the two is arresting. He plays guitar; she adds keyboards. They’re backed by the muscular rhythm section of Michael Payne (drums) and Dave Duly (bass).
“Movin’ On” is a blues album, lyrically and musically, cast in the tones, colors and dynamics of stripped-down, electric Delta blues. It’s visceral and arousing, and contrary to its title, it will make most people stop and listen.
The album is available on Soundcloud, CD Baby, iTunes and at Cadillac Flambe shows. The band plays Saturday at RJ’s Bob-Be-Que Shack and June 1 at the Phoenix.
To reach Timothy Finn, call 816-234-4781 or send email to email@example.com.