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L.A. Beat

CD Reviews

Smokestack Jacks debut loud, raunchy and lots of fun

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Local blues rock duo Smoke Stack Jacks have just released their long awaited self titled full length CD on Lethbridge record label Ghostwood Records.Click here to hear Smokestack Jacks
Most of last year’s  EP has been reworked for the new CD including Smoke Stack Jacks, which has been  retitled ‘The Shakedown.’
The CD is crisply recorded, cleaning up drummer Geoff McDonald and guitarist Dave Bullied’s dirty, raunchy, blues/rock sound while not detracting from their garage roots.
The two are locked in together as if they were linked telepathically. And you can hear a definite Jon Spencer Blues Explosion influence. It isn’t blues in the traditional sense, but blues played from a different, more grungy place, perhaps another planet.
Thanks to improved production qualities, you can actually hear some of Bullied’s deadly slide guitar and megaphone vocals this time, which aren’t quite as distorted. I like Bullied’s slide guitar on the closing track, ‘Fat Ass,’ which is another one with a touch of rockabilly and is reminiscent of blues classic ‘Who Do You Love?’
‘Whiskey’ is a highlight and they even have a demented birthday song. So is the subtle slide work on ‘Devil Girl.’
‘Turn it Around’ is one of my favourite Smokestack Jacks’ tracks performed live and it translates well here in a crisper and cleaner recording.
 I also really like the demented rockabilly  feel of ‘Riverboat.’
Smokestack Jacks’ debut CD  is loud, raunchy and a lot of fun.
— by Richard Amery, L.A. Beat Editor

CD: Smokestack Jacks
Band: Smokestack Jacks
Genre: Blues blues rock
Record company: Ghostwood Records

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Spoon River remembers folk rock of the ’70s

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If you like the Band,  Bob Dylan and ‘Ohio’ era Neil Young, you’ll like  Spoon River’s new CD ‘Kingdom of the Burned’. They are playing the Slice, April 16 with Rodney DeCroo.
 They have some groovy Hammond organ parts, some cool piano, tasteful harp and a little bit of ’70s style country influenced rock and roll, especially on ‘Fool.’
And they have some  excellent vocal harmonies.
 They (Tavis Eachan Triance, Jason Kent, Jeff Louch, Seamus Cowan, Jeff Cowan and Rachel Horst ) know their roots, and were even chosen to  play the Band in Todd Haynes’ Bob Dylan  biopic ‘I’m Not There.’ I remember  bassist and drummer Seamus and Jeff Cowan from a more heavier ’70s rock influenced power trio called Bull Moose, but they  mellow a bit here and help the band lay that ’70s groove down pat.
 There are understated riffs, cool vocal harmonies  (on ‘The Wind’s In The Trees’), great laid back melodies and subdued slide guitar, also on ‘The Wind’s In The Trees.’ Aand that certain something that gives them an early ’70s feel.
There are a lot of highlights on this CD. ‘The Wind’s In the Trees’ of course, “Emmanuel,’‘Fool’ and the  rocker ’The Colour of His Skin.’ which reminds me a little of Blues Traveller.
‘The Saddest of Hearts’ a little slice of psychedelia to end the CD.
 Overall, it’s impressive how such a young band can sound so old and seasoned. It’s like a slice of the ’70s except in the twenty-first century.
— By Richard Amery, L.A. Beat editor

CD: Kingdom of the Burned
Band: Spoon River
Genre: country-rock
Record label: Northern Electric

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Tom Keenan sounds like a darker Dylan

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Winnipeg musician and actor Tom Keenan’s new CD Romantic Fitness contains gritty and poetic folk music about all kinds of different topics like committing crimes, sniffing glue and starting fights at weddings. There is a quite a bit of  Beatles influence on tracks like ‘Please Don’t Think Less of Me,’ and some Bob Dylan, but grittier.
 It’s beautiful music utilizing a variety of instruments and even more beautifully dark lyrics.
I like Keenan’s voice which is reminiscent of Shannon Hoon of Bind Melon. The old  style countryish ‘River Street’ is a highlight, which features The D-Rangers’ Jaxon Haldane on banjo. I also love his lyrics, which are wry and witty stream of consciousness rants yet immediately appealing. The  lyrics and arrangements remind me of a toned down (popular Vancouver roots band) Swank.
Twilight Hotel’s Dave Quanbury figures prominently on this CD too, playing drums on six tracks, organ on three, pedal steel guitar on two, something called a box shaped heart on one and even trumpet  on ‘I Committed a Crime’ which is very cool, not to mention one of the outstanding tracks.
 There is lots of unusual instrumentation piano, organ, banjo and a couple of weird things I don’t recognize, but it all works. Keenan’s lyrics come out loud and clear. There is even Ruth Moody on violin on a couple songs ‘Another 100 Hours’ and ‘Lullabye.’
I like the story of “I Don’t Want to Lie Down,” which is Keenan’s song about starting a fight at a wedding because he doesn’t get along with the father of the bride — and losing it. And you have to give him credit for setting a Shakespearian sonnet (With Heigh) to music.
It’s just an interesting combination of folk and assorted weirdness that just begs you for repeated listens.
— by Richard Amery L.A. Beat Editor

CD: Romantic Fitness
Artist: Tom Keenan
Genre: folk
Record label: indie

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Double Jack at home on modern rock scene

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Local grunge/alternative band Double Jack is back with their third CD, well a four song taster of a soon to be released full length CD. The tracks are ‘Into The Flood,’ ‘Sleep Tight,’ ‘Bullets,’ ‘Disappear.’
Click here to hear Double Jack.there are elements of pretty much any ’90s grunge/alternative rock on this sampler from Soundgarden and Pearl Jam to Living Colour (especially on the first track) a fair amount of Metallica and even a little Kiss.
So there are plenty of detuned riffs, some classic rock blues tinged  solos and thunderous drums.
On the other hand they also have a slower darker themed number with pretty arpeggios on ‘Bullets.’
They also have a straight ahead power ballad on ‘Disappear.’ Marc Belisle sings the slower numbers as well as he can scream like Soundgarden’s  Chris Cornell on the more up tempo numbers.
Throughout there is some excellent guitar work happening with complicated riffs and some excellent solos which would put any of the tracks at home on modern rock radio.
— By Richard Amery, L.A. Beat Editor
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CD: Into The Flood
Band: Double Jack
Genre: grunge/alternative
Record label: indie
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