Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Digital Music Review: Road Man's 'Light At The Speed Of Life'

Road Man
Light At The Speed Of Life

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Road Man is the name of Jon Petronzio's group, which spreads great grooves and hook-laden melodies in rock, reggae, down-tempo, and electronica formats. The New York-based band-leader creates funky, moving rhythms that rival the electronica leanings of Action Figure Party and a few reggae beats indicative of Bob Marley and Cas Haley. "The Meeting" is a funky, rock-laden tune with a Southern angst and contemporary appeal that incorporates a bluesy and roots feel. "Chosen" is a psychedelic fun-fest with glittering electronics and a funky beat with great vocals. "Dangerous Road" is a syncopated beat delight with reggae leanings and funk melodies that awaken everyone into a dance mood. "Lights Camera Action" brings together more of an urban dance feel with glistening electronica, swishy percussion, and fast vocals. "Run Away With Me" is another reggae beat gem with throbbing B3 organ sounds representing a roots-centric fixture. The diversity in tracks is exceptional and the melodies are well worth repeated listens. You can dance, relax, space out, and move your hips to the music of Road Man without having any guilt or apprehension. 5 Stars (out of 5). ~ Matthew Forss

Thursday, February 19, 2015

CD Review: Visual Music Circus' New Self-Titled Release

Visual Music Circus
Visual Music Circus

Petros Sakelliou, a native of Athens, Greece, is the brainchild behind the new album, Visual Music Circus. The circus theme is found in the carnival-esque melodies and moods represented throughout the eight tracks and several diverse musical instruments, including the piano, accordion, sax, vibraphone, clarinet, flute, piccolo, violin, upright bass, percussion, and drum-set. The multi-layered sounds conjure up images of Brazilian lounge bars, sultry beaches, and smoky nightclubs. There is a mix of jazz, classical, Latin, and nostalgic music akin to the 1960's and 70's era. The result is a playful and well-orchestrated album that is full of serene melodies, writhing rhythms, and unique sounds that bring a fresh perspective to the area of world fusion. ~ Matthew Forss  

CD Review: TreeHouse!'s 'Lifted'


Reggae-beat from South Carolina? You bet. The Southern band brings reggae, jam band, and rock themes to the mix on their third album, Lifted. There are some psychedelic powers going on here, but the reggae backbeat is never too far away. For instance, "Guru" has all the elements of a groove-laden, psychedelic track with extended instrumentals and jam-band vocals with a catchy beat and TreeHouse! does not disappoint. A dozen tracks fill the album with tons of lush melodies, edgy grooves, and world fusion influences that follow a reggae foundation and psychedelic foundation with hints of roots and folk. The fluid bass sounds are especially good on "Take It Away" and "Just Another Day." The album is as colorful as the artwork. There is a good amount of diverse stylings and beats that are never boring or redundant. ~ Matthew Forss

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

CD Review: Nickodemus' 'Wonderworld: 10 Years Of Painting Outside The Lines'

Wonderworld: 10 Years Of Painting Outside The Lines
Wonderwheel Recordings

Nickodemus has been spinning funky, global beats for over a decade and the release of Wonderworld... is a testament to his creative remixes and career highlights. The twenty-four-track release is a friendly romp on the dance, dub, and funk side of the musical spectrum with loads of Latin, Afro, and contemporary beats that are very compelling. Nickodemus incorporates the aid of numerous guest musicians and producers, including Jean Shepherd, Hector Alomar, Carol C., Tarafs de Haidouks, Ismael Kouyate, Afrika Baambaata, Sammy Ayala, and others for a truly global recording. Even though the album is contemporary, it still retains a sense of authenticity and organic roots. The diverse percussion, vocals, and rhythms keeps listeners enthralled throughout. There are no shortage of tracks or beats on this very special recording. Hear it today! ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Radius' 'Seven Tales'

Seven Tales

Justine and Harris are the duo, Radius, hailing from New Zealand. Their music of choice revolves around roots, jazz, folk, old-time, experimental, and instrumental with a dash of world fusion. The seven-track release, aptly-titled, Seven Tales, is a relaxing, instrumental effort with rustic dobro, sweeping sax melodies, plucked guitars, and the occasional banjo and ukulele. The soft sax creates a moving and meditative spirit to the music without sounding too jazz-centered or cheesy. The spacious dobro hints at Western connotations that matches the creative ingenuity of the late-Bob Brozman. At any rate, Radius is a small part in the circle of life, but it brings with it great music and memorable melodies. Perfect for contemplation and meditation, but energetic enough to keep one awake. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: April Verch's 'The Newpart'

April Verch
The Newpart
Slab Town Records

The petite and undoubtedly-cute, Canadian fiddler, April Verch, dazzles crowds yet again with another endearing folk album that continues in the old-time and bluegrass traditions. April is known for some fancy footwork on stage and her feet are definitely the star on a few songs. The rootsy and old-time folk music is more akin to Americana influences than Canadian, but there are similarities. The bluesy, gospel-tinged tunes are poignant, quaint, and relatively spacious to allow all the instruments to shine on their own. April's delicate voice is angelic and alive, which is a perfect accompaniment to some of the instruments. Some great instruments are included here, including the fiddle, bass, clawhammer banjo, acoustic guitar, and mandolin. Overall, The Newpart is more reflective, reduced, and a bit timid. However, it is still pure April Verch at her finest. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Hot Club Of The Americas' 'Federico Britos Presents...'

Hot Club Of The Americas
Federico Britos Presents Hot Club Of The Americas
3 Knocks Entertainment

As a tribute to the music of The Hot Club of France and led by violin-wielding Federico Britos, the Hot Club Of The Americas, brings us a world-class recording with North American jazz sounds, Latin elements, South American folk, and Cuban percussion for a spectacular result. A native of Uruguay, Federico knows how to liven up any composition with earthy strings, bouncy rhythms, and jazzy interludes that are full of vivacity. A dozen songs feature a host of guest musicians, including Hendrik Meurkens, Gonzalo Rubalcaba, Cecile McLorin Salvant, Giovanni Hidalgo, and Antonio Adolfo, in addition to the regular line-up of Federico, Jorge Garcia (guitar), Felix Gomex (piano), Renyel Rivero (bass), Edwin Bonilla (percussion), and Carlomagno Araya (drums). In short, there are plenty of Gypsy and Latin-influenced jazz with a good deal of folk and classical thrown in rather appropriately. The  mostly instrumental album reinvents the jazzy 1960's era with engaging, moving, and lounge-ready songs that sway along in a lazy manner like a sultry, mid-summer afternoon on a quiet, Havana beach. Anyone with a fascination in world jazz and Latin/Gypsy concoctions will love Hot Club Of The Americas. ~ Matthew Forss

Thursday, February 5, 2015

CD Review: Sizzla's 'Born A King'

Born A King
Muti Music

Jamaican-reggae at its best would not be the best without the vocals of Sizzla and his edgy, groove-laden, and funky little band. The big sound steeped in dubby grooves, staccato beats, and throaty vocals makes Born A King fit for everyone. There is an element of hip-hop, urban, dancehall, and soul music. There are even electronic gurgles, tones, and reverberations that keep the sound fresh and contemporary. The sound would not be complete without the talents of Errol Dunkley, Vida-Sunshyne, Turbulence, and Alton Ellis. Sizzla brings a heavier, more urban-driven sound to the reggae market, but that doesn't make it any less enjoyable. Still, fans of more innovative reggae with urban beats will find it most satisfying. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Rocky Dawuni's 'Branches Of The Same Tree'

Rocky Dawuni
Branches Of The Same Tree

Ghanaian-native and LA-based, Rocky Dawuni brings a rousing mix of Afro-roots and reggae-based grooves to the forefront on Branches Of The Same Tree. The English vocals and great backup vocalizations make the songs very lively. However, the drums, bass, guitar, and keyboards played in a staccato pattern is the real prize here. "Black Star" features edgier guest vocals from Samini. There is even some electric guitar sounds that fuse a little rock n roll to the reggae beat. The pleasant and island-friendly tune, "Island Girl," is more of an acoustic song with earthy ukulele and catchy melodies. Of course, fans of Bob Marley will be enamored, as well as contemporary listeners of reggae music. This is jah-st a beautiful album! ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Lawson Rollins' 'Traveler'

Lawson Rollins
Infinita Records

Many influences grace the sounds on Traveler by Lawson Rollins. The instrumental tunes represent a romp through world jazz, flamenco, lounge, improvisation, and even Latin America. The fiery guitar stylings, edgy percussion, flashy horns, punchy piano, and lively strings from the hands of Mads Tolling, Charlie Bisharat, Randy Tico, Dave Bryant, Cameron Stone, and even some Big Dad Voodoo Daddy members. The spritely strings and earthy rhythms of "Cafe Paris" conjures up images of gypsy, Roma, or Cape Verdean sounds, most likely due to the clarinet. "Berlin Bossa" incorporates some Bach influences, while "Meeting In Madrid" fuses jazz with flamenco and roots for a truly exciting journey. There are twelve tracks to enjoy for over an hour of fun. Each tune is new and reveals a varied array of influences that are never dull or unimaginative. Lawson takes listeners on musical journeys that are fun-filled and authentic. Your first trip should be to your local music store or online retailer for Traveler. No fluff here. ~ Matthew Forss

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

CD Review: Razia's 'Akory'

Wake Up Music

Madagascar is an island known for vanilla, Tarika, valihas, and now Razia. The Malagasy singer has been making music for a few years with her first album, Zebu Nation, released on Cumbancha. The poignant and happy rhythms and sounds of Madagascar are alive and well on her latest release, Akory, which means, 'what now'? Well, now we have an energetic and world-pop release with native lyrics and a roots-driven beat that traverses influences from many lands, including East Africa, Europe, and America. The upbeat sounds of "Baraingo" and "Gny Lalagna" are sure to make everyone dance. The pleasant sounds of "Ela Izay," "Taranaka Afara," and "Papillon" resemble Euro folk, or even South American music, as the accordion adds a nice, authentic touch. Fans of contemporary Madagascar music rooted in authentic sounds and rhythms will find Razia a welcome addition to any music library. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Ntjam Rosie's 'The One'

Ntjam Rosie
The One
Gentle Daze Records

Cameroonian, Ntjam Rosie is clearly influenced by the subtle, electronic nuances of down-tempo, jazz, and laid-back pop with a European and African foundation. The vocals are relatively fluid and soft with poetic underpinnings and a slight urban presence. However, this is not a full-fledged hip hop or R&B compilation. Instead, Ntjam's musical concoctions flow from a diverse and multi-layered creativity that is very soothing and memorable. "The One" contains vocals that are very smooth, as well as on "Forever Love." Nevertheless, the entire album features a great mix of musical subtleties, such as the sparse, instrumentation akin to Rokia Traore's music. At times, the vocals imbue a sense of surrealism and utter beauty without adding redundant beats or loud guitars. Some of the supple tones and notes are due to some strings and piano sounds for a truly, world jazz mix. What is more, the vocals are very similar to Binki Shapiro's work with the electronic lo-fi group, Zero 7. Anyone seeking some light fanfare from Cameroon (via The Netherlands), then this is 'the one' for you. ~ Matthew Forss