The best music offers a thoughtful, and often marked, point of view. In that context, the Cut Throat Finches latest hits pretty hard, lambasting the social upheaval that grips our world today. The make their point quite clearly on “New Age,” the album’s opening track:
This is the new American revolution
Where all you need to do is sit and complain,
Demand and complain, reset, repeat
Until you can’t find the space between your ass and the seat
Lest anyone question where the band stands, they emphatically proclaim “If this is the new age baby you can count me out.”
The album continues through a range of emotions, from the defiant warning of “War Cry” (“Voices are rising we once knew were wrong, the dark tide is rising to silence our song”) to the thoughtful counsel of “Head in the Clouds” (“Help us to see the lessons learned from the yesterdays or lessons from yesterday won’t stay wrong”).
The group takes a break from the social and political commentary for a few romantic interludes. “Blushing” walks the line between hope and despair, chronicling a relationship that isn’t going as desired but hasn’t yet hit the point of desperation. “Save Me” is the kind of plea that the title suggests, “save me from the life that I made on my own, won’t you save me, cuz I don’t want to end up alone.”
Despite the lyrical heaviness, the band’s music is pure pop deliciousness that recalls recalls early/mid-career Elvis Costello. There’s an engaging slickness that shifts from the fuzzy guitar charm of “New Age” to the glorious piano-driven pop of “Blushing.” The result is music that is simultaneously challenging and catchy, as it should be.
Vanessa Peters is restless and anxious, emotions that she channels into a ruminating collection of songs that make up Foxhole Prayers.
The album opens with a sense of urgency. “Get Started” and “Before It Falls Apart” are calls to action, the singer offering a wizened life perspective as she seeks the motivation to deal with life’s complications and uncertainties. “The road is just one long diversion, an endless gravel coercion,” she sings on the latter track, “coaxing you to think melancholy thoughts, leading you to distant places.”
The theme continues on “Fight,” a moving and personal soliloquy that is the album’s centerpiece. The verses chronicle a range of anguish and self-doubt before easing into a chorus that implores “get out there and fight girl, bring ‘em to their knees.”
Peters broadens her lyrical lens on the second half of Foxhole Prayers. “Just One of Them” is a stinging indictment of contemporary society. “That ragged dream is full of holes poked through and the threads left behind don’t hang true,” she declares.
“Carnival Barker” is a thinly veiled reflection on the 2016 US election and the times that followed while “Trolls” laments the current state of affairs. “The battle lines are clearly drawn,” she warns.
Foxhole Prayers is an evocative and meaningful reminder of the role that music can play in confronting adversity, whether it be personal or societal.
Guitar and drums can make a hearty racket. Just ask the duo of guitarist Kevin “Frenchie” Sciou and drummer Brother Pete Coatney, aka Frenchie’s Blues Destroyers.
Brother Pete’s drums intro on lead single “Beautiful Mess” sets the stage quite nicely, a feel good beat that is quickly joined by Frenchie’s spirited guitar. Elsewhere, such as the feisty “Can’t Stand Missing You” and “Get Through to You”, Frenchie’s bluesy riffs kick start the song. Regardless of which of the two musicians leads things off, the songs have a rollicking good-time vibe.
Although Love Is Blood hearkens back to the roots of rock and roll (and country in the case of “Behind the Wheel”), calling the album retro doesn’t do it justice. While the album may lean in that direction, it certainly doesn’t live there. Rather, it takes the commitment to simple – and downright catchy – melodies that recall those vintage years and gives them a touch of contemporary sheen. The result makes for one boisterous rock and roll party.
Meet Heart of the City, a new-ish collaboration between Brandon Callies and Paco Estrada, two Texas music vetarans. Their debut release shines with a simmering intensity, one that vividly captures the energy and brooding undercurrents that pulse through every bustling city.
Songs like “Dancing with the Devil”, “The Lover” and “The River” chronicle the struggle to find one’s way. Both music and lyrics are infused with a tension that conveys a determination to find solace even though the songs stop short of realizing a satisfying conclusion. That’s life in the cold, hard city I suppose.
As the album progresses, the group turns their attention to romantic relationships. “End of Suffering” is the tale of a relationship in disarray, the hint of hope overshadowed by a sense of resignation. “Waiting” paints a picture of a relationship at a crossroads. “All the hurt we hold, secrets left untold,“ Estrada sings before asking “Are we gonna fall or fly?”
The group sets these tales to an appealing soundtrack that effortlessly blends rock and soul. Regal arrangements are made all the more evocative by trumpet and piano flourishes. The instrumentation is complimented by Estrada’s sweet and soulful voice, resulting in an enthralling and gripping sound.
One of the benefits of moving to a new city is the chance to explore a new music scene. One of my favorite discoveries has been Denton’s Buffalo Ruckus, whose most recent album Peace and Cornbread was released in 2016.
The Texas band has a spiritual tie to Georgia (although singer Jason Lovell hails from rural Georgia); well, more specifically the Allman Brothers. Their music is a sturdy blend of southern rock and country with the occasional hint of psychedelic funk and blues.
Within that frame you get songs that range from the back porch acoustic feel of “Carolina Calls” to the southern boogie of “High in the Garden” to the swampy blues vibe to “Possum.” The standout, at least to these ears, is the wonderful melancholy drenched opener “Hills and Valleys.”
The songs on Peace and Cornbread are taut, with flourishes of mandolin and various keyboards that compliment the electric guitars and generally relaxed rhythm section. That said, there’s a tension that lends itself to the band’s spirited live performances. And, yes, that is a recommendation that you should keep an eye out to catch the band on tour.
About the author: Mild-mannered corporate executive by day, excitable Twangville denizen by night.