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soundbites
July 2009
Vigalantee  •  Bad Veins  •  Scott H. Biram
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Vigalantee
M.I.R.A.C.L.E.
www.myspace.com/vigalantee

Kansas City’s own Vigalantee (a k a Roger Suggs) has a style and skill that set’s him apart from most of the hip-hop/rap community. Mixing spoken word, old school R&B and modern beats, Suggs truly creates music that is both compelling and catchy at the same time.

The message behind the music here isn’t just misdirected anger and pointless misogyny: tracks like “Emmit Till” and “Black President” are more about understanding and compassion rather than drive-bys and “making it rain”. Other songs like “Outstanding” are straight-up gospel-driven R&B, praising the simple acts of faith that might be all that sustains those lost and poverty-stricken souls who are invisible too so much of our society.

This is the second Vigalantee album I’ve reviewed, and it’s evident the man is adding skills as he grows. Produced by Scud, James Holts and Pay Day, this is an adult, complex album that honors the classic sounds of Motown while always moving forward without compromise.

Vigalantee and his “No Jaangle Movement” (you can look up the meaning of that phrase at his myspace.vigalantee.com site, where I believe you can also request to purchase his albums) is a refreshing and delightfully positive combination of party-driven beats and upbeat thoughtfulness in a genre that has, in many ways, become a parody of itself.

It is a miracle, indeed. —Brandon Whitehead

Bad Veins
Bad Veins
Dangerbird Records

Benjamin Davis started out composing music for some kind of art project (according to the press release, anyway), laying down numerous tracks in a style reminiscent of the “Wall of Sound” created by Phil Spector (without shooting anyone, presumably). After utilizing the resources of the music licensing company Black Iris and adding drummer Sebastien Schultz, Davis created quite a buzz with his own take on fuzz-heavy Indie-pop.

Their first self-titled album, Bad Veins, is ten songs of lush, layered and intelligent pop music, a blend accomplished live by use of a multi-track reel-to-reel tape player lovingly dubbed “Irene” (yes, that’s cheating a little, but to get this sound on stage live without it you would need about twenty musicians).

While tracks like “The Lie” and “Dry Out,” and many of the others are much the same, that doesn’t change the fact that they are good … not just in the commercial sense (where they do work well), but on a personal level as well. Fan favorite track “Gold and Warm” lives up to its name with an infectious and fun club sound that seems far more seasoned than one would expect from a duo on their first album.

While some people might not want to watch two dudes on stage playing with a giant tape machine, the shear skillfulness of Davis’s arrangements should surpass that attitude.

Yes, he does sound almost exactly like Brandon Flowers from The Killer’s (hopefully without the d-bag personality), but is that really a bad thing? Pop music is, after all, a commercial venture, but the Bad Veins have proven that it doesn’t have to be a bad one —Brandon Whitehead


Scott H. Biram
Something’s Wrong/Lost Forever
Bloodshot Records

Austin, Texas’ self-proclaimed “Dirty Old One-Man Band”, a k a Scott Biram, is one strange and wonderful beast, man. He is literally a one-man band, a solo player on stage with nothing but a ’59 Gibson, mouth harp and “electrified stomp board”, and a whisky and blues-fueled soul that wails out tales of dark torments, righteous fury and honky-tonk nights.

This dude is just damn good, man.

You could call his sound a combination of Tom Waits, Slayer, Hank Williams and The White Stripes tied up in a big bundle, soaked in cheap bourbon and lit on fire. The man throws himself into his music with such energy and violence you wonder if he found that same crossroads where Robert Johnson supposedly sold his soul to play the blues.

This is Scott’s third album for Bloodshot (the other two were also reviewed by yours truly), and like those he mixes things up quite a bit. He flips from straight-up country blues on tunes like “Still Drunk, Still Crazy, Still Blue” to wild-eyed devil-frenzy in “Hard Time” and “I Feel So Good”. His music alternates between pleas of sorrowful forgiveness, over to hell bent drunken madness and then to black laments with the force of a tornado, and man is it fun to listen to.

One of the best thing about the man is that he is a legendary tour-fiend who is no stranger to our little cow-town (back in 2003 he was in a near-fatal head-on collision with a semi- less than two months later he was back on stage, playing in a wheelchair with an IV hook-up nearby). He’s gonna be a-pickin and a-stompin on Monday, July 20 down at the Riot Room, and if you miss one of the best shows of this summer, then something’s really wrong with you. —Brandon Whitehead


Brandon Whitehead can be contacted at brandonw@kcactive.com

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