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April 08


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Ben Arnold
Nevermind My Blues

Ben Arnold is one of those singer/songwriter that after a set, as Arnold eases off stage, seeking a brew or maybe a cig out back, some fan will latch on, insist on buying him a drink and force-feed his presence by saying something like, “One of your songs, can’t remember which one, but anyway…it reminds me of the time I was…”

And it would go on, the memory-laced enthusiasm, pithy recollections and the need to recognize the connection with an artist that is shamelessly overlooked by most mortals.

The raves have come for Arnold’s originality. They just haven’t lingered long enough to set in permanently. He hit the spotlight with the release of Almost Speechless, received more critical acclaim with follow-up releases of In Case I’m Gone Tomorrow and Calico.

Released in the fall of last year and recorded over two and a half years, from Arnold’s hometown of Philly to outside of LA, Nevermind My Blues is a CD for old, established, weary but hopeful souls. It’s not the “when life gives you lemons make lemonade” homily.

Arnold’s songs, his writing, his delivery of what he feels, seems to come from a belief that because life can be so hard, it almost impolite to dwell on it too long in front of other people. In the title cut, he sings —

But some people got
No chance in life
And no way to express their views
I’ve got it all right
I can sit here all night
Quietly chasing my muse
Yeah, I got a good life
So, never mind my blues

It’s a great, slow blues tune, pushed nicely along by Neil Larson on the Hammond. Treat yourself, grow a little, spend some time with Ben Arnold. — Bruce Rodgers (posted 04/18/08)

Kelly Burgos
Kelly Burgos
Kelly O Music (ascap)

Think Bonnie Raitt mixed with June Carter Cash and you get a good idea what Sherman Oaks native Kelly Burgos produces in her first folk/country blues album of the same name.

Right from the first track, “Got to find a way,” Burgos matches her smoky country vocals with some fantastic guitar work from Toshi Yanagi to produces as cool a western blues tune as can be heard.

One favorite here has to be the rolling-blues tune “Boy I’m gonna quit you,” which has some great lyrics (remember when the lyrics were actually important? Nah, guess nobody does…) such as this wise-ass and perfect line: Boy I’m gonna quite you like a job that don’t pay…

It also probably doesn’t hurt that Kelly’s producer was none other than Sheila E, who even makes a special percussion-appearance on “Wanna want you.” New musicians should make good note of the importance of a quality producer to back them up, and Shelia has made sure that Burgos has a great album her first time out. Now all she has to do is get started on the NEXT one…

Like a lot of CDs you have to order it from her myspace site (where you can hear some tracks for free) but she uses Paypal so at least your credit card numbers won’t end up somewhere in Nigeria where apparently lots of people have left large sums of money in bank accounts they can’t get too for some reason…

By the way you can also look forward to a future column where this critic will explain exactly how the Compact Disc completely failed to live up to anything they said it would do at all, and makes New Coke look like a good idea.— Brandon Whitehead (posted 04/11/08)

Jeff Dernlan

Normally when this critic hears the word “folk” in connection with a new album, it elicits shall we say a less than enthusiastic response. Its not that folk music is always a bunch of bad, overwrought and simpering melodies that makes yours truly want to smash that d#@m guitar just like Belushi did in Animal House …well, ok, maybe it is, but that’s not the point.

While Jeff Dernlan’s second CD Cobblestone is indeed listed as folk, that hardly does the man (and his music) justice. The first track “Close to the bone” swells with so much western grit and bravado it could have been composed by Ennio Morricone (from Il Buono, Il Brutto, Il Cattivo fame for you bilingual folks…), while tracks like “Good Man” seem as quiet and simple as an Amish wedding.

Luckily Dernlan has got such a fantastic voice (think Johnny Cash mixed with Kris Kristofferson) and a great hand at pickin’ the guitar you don’t really care what he plays, and most of these cleverly arranged songs set this Oklahoma boy’s feet to a tappin’ right from the git-go.

Really, the only misstep here is “World of Sin,” not for the song itself but rather the somewhat heavy use is an echo-chamber effect that bungs up a perfectly good song (musicians screw up perfectly fine songs so often by dumping effect after effect on them it could make you cry…or perhaps not buy their next album).

Unfortunately, Dernlan lives in Philadelphia, so an appearance in KC anytime soon is unlikely, but you can order both his albums from his website (above) or www.cdbaby.com. While you are there, you can check out the rest of the “folk” section.

Just make sure nobody’s holding a guitar anywhere near you. — Brandon Whitehead (posted 04/04/08)

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