Riverboat, by Tim Gearan
Tim Gearan has long been a mainstay on the Boston roots scene, with 2-3 weekly residencies and a tendency to show up to play at any number of other shows in a given week. His primary Friday night residency is a weekly party – there is no other way to describe it.
As many know, it is often tough to capture that kind of energy in the studio. Well, give Gearan and producer Ed Valauskas credit for making that happen. Gearan showed up to the studio with a batch of great songs, invited a bunch of talented friends to join in the process and the result speaks for itself.
“Got a Gun” opens the festivities with a healthy strut and some tasty slide guitar. “You say your favorite song was ‘Waterloo Sunset,’” sings Gearan, “when they made that record you weren’t even born yet.
Several tracks have a strong southern feel. “Riverboat” has the expected Mississippi vibe with a touch of Dixieland horns. “Shoulda Gone Home” is the type of song that you’d expect to hear at a juke joint right up until the moment it breaks down into a New Orleans second line horn celebration.
Gearan also earns his rock credentials. “Hang On Little One” maintains a blistering intensity punctuated by heavy-hitting drums and brash horns while “Out in the Jungle” opens with a riff that mixes a bit of funk into a rock guitar air. The latter song also contains an impressive trumpet solo with a killer Hugh Masekela vibe.
More relaxed songs like “So Familiar” let the listener catch a breath among all the upbeat grooves. “She gave a smile like ‘c’est la vie’ and flew away like a morning dove,” sings Gearan as his guitar blends effortlessly with the horns and a simmering organ.
This is one of those albums that will never fail to elicit a smile.
Audio Download: Tim Gearan, “So Familiar”
Mona’s Prayer, Brian Charles // You Dirty Rat, Letters to Cleo
(From the Stereorrific Recordings Chorus Vs. Solos: a Tribute to Charlie Chesterman)
Charlie Chesterman is one of Boston’s most likeable musicians. He has long been recognized as much for his effervescent personality as for his jangly, intelligent and oft-times humorous songwriting. Chesterman has been battling cancer and a large group of friends and fans have rallied to raise money to support his fight. Here are two stand-outs from the release, shared with you to give you a taste of what you’ll get from the full enchilada.
Audio Stream: Brian Charles, “Mona’s Prayer”
Audio Stream: Letters To Cleo, “You Dirty Rat”
Never Really Lost, Todd Thibaud (from the Blue Rose Records release Music Star 11 April 11)
Longtime Twangville readers will recognize Thibaud as one of my favorite songwriters. His roots-based music and tremendous sense of melody grab your attention; his perceptive and intelligent lyrics give his songs exceptional depth. The songs come across as musical snapshots, capturing the trials and tribulations of his characters with a thoughtful perspective.
There’s what you have and what you dream and life is somewhere in-between,
And you wind up throwing curses at an undeserving moon,
Contemplating verses of an early Dylan tune.
And you’re going too fast to avoid the cost,
Trying to get back what you never really lost.
Audio Download: Todd Thibaud, “Never Really Lost”
So Far So Fast, Jenee Halstead (from the self-released Raised By Wolves)
Prior to listening to this release I would have described Halstead as a folk singer. Raised By Wolves, however, is an intense rock-oriented record. It calls to mind PJ Harvey, fueled by angular electric guitars and heavy electronic-sounding percussion. Halstead’s angelic voice becomes spine-tingling against the musical soundscape.
Audio Download: Jenee Halstead, “So Far So Fast”
Take a Bow, Old Jack (from the self-released White Label Series, volume 1)
Singer-songwriter Dan Nicklin and crew give their contemporary songs an old school rock and soul feel. Every song is filled with rousing choruses and vibrant group harmonies.
Audio Download: Old Jack, “Take a Bow”
You Know Me, Air Traffic Controller (from the Sugarpop Records release Nordo)
Any guess what singer-songwriter Dave Munro did in the military before launching his musical career? Yup, he guided planes into and out of airports. Back in Boston, he founded a band to bring his songs to life. The six piece band has been known to augment their sound with varied other instruments, including a 40-piece orchestra. At the core, however, are some irresistible pop melodies. Have a listen.
Audio Download: Air Traffic Controller, “You Know Me”
Wagon Wheel, Pesky J. Nixon (from the self-released Red Ducks)
One doesn’t always associate Boston with campfire folk but these five locals are clearly on a mission to change that perception. With stringed instruments ranging from mandolin to fiddle to acoustic guitar set against an accordion, one can almost see the quintet sitting around the fire swapping their eclectic collection of original and cover songs. The persistent harmony vocals are just icing on the cake.
Audio Download: Pesky J Nixon, “Wagon Wheel”
Make the Music Loud Enough, Dear Leader (from the self-released digital single Make the Music Loud Enough)
Rising from the ashes of Boston’s late, great the Sheila Devine, Dear Leader play glistening alternative rock. “If we make the music loud enough, we won’t hear the world falling apart,” sings leader Aaron Perrino in this song appropriate for our times.
Audio Download: Dear Leader, “Make the Music Loud Enough”
FROM THE ARCHIVES
Goin’ the Mile, The Kickbacks (from the Sodapop Records release Blindside View)
This has long been one of “those” albums for me. You know the kind, a single album filled with remarkable songs and rousing performances. The type that you still enjoy years down the road and, in this case, is a perpetual summer soundtrack. I still chuckle when I hear the band’s take on John Fogerty’s “Almost Saturday Night” from this release – it fits so well alongside their originals that it took me awhile to recognize it as a cover.
The band went their separate ways a few years back but singer-songwriter Tad Overbaugh has continued to perform around the Boston area while multi-instrumentalist Steve Scott plays with Air Traffic Controller. Overbaugh recently released a “greatest hits” ep that features songs from the Kickbacks’ catalog. Get it here for free.
Audio Download: The Kickbacks, “Goin’ the Mile”
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About the author: Mild-mannered corporate executive by day, excitable Twangville denizen by night.