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January 08


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Grayson Capps

Hyena Records

Back in 2002 singer/songwriter Grayson Capps sat down in the 9th Ward Picking Parlor in New Orleans with violinist Tom Marron to have a little jam session. Only a few microphones recorded their humble arrangements. The result is Songbones, ten simple Nashville blues and almost gospel-like songs that show more skill and soul than a most of this year’s music, and do it with such an aching ease it makes one want to drive down to the local radio stations an MAKE them listen to some real good music (yes, yes, the DJs don’t get to pick what they play, we all know that, doesn’t mean they’re doin’ a good job though, does it?).

Right from the first track “Slidell,” Capps and Marron show why guitar and violin together have one of the most unique and haunting sounds in music, and it doesn’t hurt that both are absolute masters of their instruments, or that it just keeps getting better from there (no crappy throw-away songs to fill out the running time here). “Graveyard,” a plaintive rebel tale of what it takes to love your music, is simply one of the best songs that this critic has heard this year, and that goes pretty much for the rest of the album as well. Capps’ fantastic and often darkly humorous sensibility runs all through this album, and he even does some of the goofy little story/songs he tells almost Shatner-style (see “Junior & The Old African Queen”).

The fact that these two men make better music than others armed with an army of dancers and producers backed by boob-jobs, Botox and bottomless pocketbooks says a lot about how far off the mark the music industry has gotten (not that they care). However, if you are one of those individuals left out there who still buy music because you want to listen to great music, not to make a political or social statement for your myspace page then go to www.graysoncapps.com to find out where to get this masterpiece…no bones about it. —Brandon Whitehead (posted 01/25/08)

Jeff Wood
Underneath Me


Well, another year has gone by, and what a year it was in the world of music! Just think about all that happened: the Grammy winners (wow, remember who they were…), the top selling albums (remember them either…), and, of course, Britney (oh, but you will remember her, till the very end of time itself!).

Just because CD sales continue to dig a hole in the basement (led by the now magnificently crappy hip-hop industry), the leading tours were a bunch of has-beens who got laughed out of Germany, and even the sex and drugs in rock and roll have been sanitized for our protection doesn’t mean we won’t illegally download that next Kanye West single, right? This little critics favorite moment this year: Radioheads’ “you price it” online release of their newest album. How brave for those hip young guys to embrace the future by letting their fans do what they were going to do anyway (actually, they made a bundle without giving a scent to a label, which makes one wonder just what labels are for, exactly…).

Here on the local scene in ‘ol KC, we continue to suffer from too many good bands with too few descent venues (R.I.P. Grand Emporium…), and some of the best musicians around don’t even live in the Crossroads district! For example, it was more than a little surprising to discover that one of the best albums of the year came from Raymore, MO.

Not to knock that hip town (mostly famed for the great storm of 1893 in which no less than two of the town’s three horses became airborne) but wasn’t the hipster art-school boys with their burlesque/roller girl girlfriends supposed to bring the great music? Well, until they finally do, we’ll have to live with the likes of Jeff Wood and his debut album Underneath Me, which will do just fine. With a simple pop sensibility and a quiet, full ranged voice, Wood has put together 14 soulful tunes that sound as clear as a multi-million dollar a minute studio and just plain fun to listen too.

Right from the first track “You”, Woods proves his country/blues chops with virtuoso guitar and haunting voice. “Impulse” is a cool country-style ballad perfectly performed and beautifully written, and the other tracks just reinforce the skill present throughout the album.

While he lists a long line of KC appearances (and is a member of the band The Sound and the Fury), one still wonders where he’s been hiding: music that’s both mature and fun is hard to come by, and Jeff sounds more like a Nashville star than a beginner. The CD and some samples are on his website, as well as the list of his upcoming gigs, so give it a visit and give some props (and as far as one can tell it is also 100% free of celebrity train wrecks…). —Brandon Whitehead (posted 01/18/08)

Mat Dickson
Land’s End


The long-lived musical style known as Celtic music has at times encompassed everything from Celine Deion to Yanni (at least when it comes to what’s played on most “adult contemporary” radio stations) with a few exceptions, like the occasional pagan festival or Ren-Fest re-enactor. But if you can manage to get past chicks who worship crystals and guys who play D&D well into their forties, the eerie and atmospheric melodies of times (and plagues and really uncomfortable-looking clothing) of the distant mist-filled past can be as loved by its fans as any pop or rock songs, and is thankfully completely free of any Brittney Spears-type characters.

That said, it obviously takes a brave musician to produce not one but three fusion ambient guitar/Celtic rock albums about English lighthouses.

Yes, lighthouses.

Given that, the final installment of Mat Dickson’s trilogy, Land’s End, is a personal reflection of his own love of the rolling English shore and its tall towers that guided sailors’ home from the sea, and that tranquil soul runs deep throughout these fifteen songs. With help from the very Celtic-sounding Fiona Clifton-Welker on harp, as well as Pascal Baudot and Ralf Leleu with keyboards and drum work, Dickson has created more of a modern and highly stylized Vangelis-type sound than one would expect. For the most part it works. While over an hour in playing time worth of atmospheric instrumentals might be a bit much for most, there is no denying the tranquil serenity of tracks like “Wolf Rock” (if you’re into tranquil serenity, that is…).

The CD case (which is one of the cool hardboard fold-over types, instead of the standard pre-broken plastic jewel case) also has a neat picture of the “Western Approaches” marine chart reproduced by permission of the Controller of Her Majesty’s Stationery Office and the UK Hydrographic Office — which is repeated here because frankly it just sounds cool. —Brandon Whitehead (posted 01/11/08)

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