Crop circles: Glimpsing recent local CDs
Robin Wynn, Broken Sky
Fair Weather Bums, FWB
Sun-Dried Opossum, Back Up
For an artist, having a CD is a sign of a certain level of confidence. It says to an audience that they have completed a phase of writing and are ready to give it to the public in a set form. Many times it's a relief, the end of one chapter and the beginning of a new phase in writing.
But no matter how an artist feels, laying down a CD is a gamble. A good disc can propel an artist's career ("Hey, I heard a copy of that disk, I'll check them out!"), or a bad one can be an artist's demise ("I heard they were good, but then I got a copy of their disk. Whew! Do they stink!").
Here are a few CD's that came across my desk in the last month. There's something noteworthy about each one, but in the end it all comes down to taste. If you haven't tasted the recorded local music scene in a while, here are a few offerings you may want to look for.
Artist: Robin Wynn
Album: Broken Sky EP
What it is: Acoustic female singer songwriter dripping with melancholy and redemption.
The good: We are dealing with one accomplished singer-songwriter in Robin Wynn. These are well-crafted songs that flow in feel and theme to create a complete EP. Wynn is quite the poet, with lyrics straying far from contrived or clichéd. Mark Goldstein (guitars, keys) and Stuart Gunter (drums, percussion) provide an appealing backdrop, never overshadowing Wynn.
The bad: Robin Wynn has a gorgeous voice, and her lyrics are very revealing and heartfelt, but after a time the music becomes a bit boring. I'd love to see her jump out emotionally and let the feelings that created the words shine through in her performance.
Notable songs: "Broken Sky," "Hate How I Love You So"
Artist: Fair Weather Bums
What it is: Three-piece Bluegrass/Americana ensemble with three-part male harmonies.
The good: Andy Thacker takes up mandolin duties here and is nothing short of astounding. This guy's a treat. I have yet to hear a project of his that's less than impressive. FWB nail it with the harmonies. The lyrics paint pictures of everyday nostalgia and weave tales engaging and inviting. This is another solid offering from Mountainside Studios.
The bad: Peyton Tochterman plays one hell of a guitar and writes one hell of a song, but there are moments in some of his tunes where he gets lazy and lets a line or two slip out that's... well... mediocre. The song writing is so strong that the weaker lines stand out in sharp contrast and detract from the piece as a whole.
Notable songs: "Old Wild River," "Scootin' Rasputin," "Keswick Special," "Old Judson"
Artist: Sun Dried Opossum
Album: Back Up
What it is: Sing-a-long hard Southern Rock-n-Roll
The good: Sun Dried Opossum is one tight ensemble. Lots of folks try to keep the classic southern rock style alive and fail miserably. These guys, on the other hand, keep the music heavy and fun with massive guitar solos and hard choppy riffs without watering down or being overly cheesy. These guys are here to rock the party. Period.
The bad: Sun Dried Opossum really limit themselves in two arenas. One: every song except one (I believe) is an all-out party rocker. The group shows no emotional depth in the music. This carries on to the next point: the songs are pretty much about drinking, girls, parties, consequences of drinking, more girls and drinking away the pain. Emotion? Depth? Naw.
Notable songs: "Spend My Money," "Ode To Dickey," "Vida"