This is the first regular installment of a bi-weekly review of CDs, performances, news and events that cross my path or strike my fancy. Enjoy!
INDIE ROUND-UP for March 24 2005
Cadillac Moon rocked the house at Cornelia Street Cafe last night in a return engagement. The eight-piece blues and soul combo squeezes onto (and spills off of) the tiny stage like they were born to it. Plenty of bands do the blues, soul and R&B thing, but few combine such a high level of professionalism with such infectious enthusiasm, and even fewer can write such good original material in that style. (A few well-chosen covers, like Van Morrison’s “Cleaning Windows,” fit right in to their mostly original set.) If you’re in the New York/Long Island area, go see Cadillac Moon. I’d recommend them to Charles and Camilla, in fact. If they booked them for their wedding, they’d have such a good time they could forget all about their sourpuss Queen and those annoying paparazzi!
Aaron McMullan, Songs From the Back Room
With nothing but a creaky Shane McGowan baritone and a few chords
strummed on an acoustic guitar, Aaron McMullan conjures a world of
lonely streets and lost loves. It’s a sketchy, demo-tape-quality recording, but if these seven songs were fleshed out with a band, they might fit somewhere between early Rolling Stones (think “Play with Fire”) and Velvet Underground, with a dash of the gloomier side of British punk. The lyrics have a wry Bukowskian grittiness combined with a heart-on-sleeve urban folk sensibility. Even a funny song like “Goth Girls Turn Me On” betrays some not very repressed anger, while “The Ballad of the Kirsten Dunst Tennis Ball” is much more touching than the offbeat title might suggest. (Readers of “The Duke’s” blog and his contributions to Blogcritics will be familiar with his good-natured obsession with the actress).
The overall effect is noirish and biting, showing a fast-developing talent. And it proves that the current ability of “anybody” to get affordable, digital home recording equipment and make a “professional-sounding” CD isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. A guy and a guitar can make a home recording every bit as affecting as someone using ProTools, effects, and a hard drive the size of Saturn. It’s about talent and spirit, not toys. Aaron McMullan’s got the first two, and that Kirsten Dunst tennis ball makes three.
Available via download here.
Kierstin Gray, Anything & Everything: The Second Edition
This is a pleasant enough acoustic R&B album, but it doesn’t do justice to Kierstin Gray‘s live show. On stage Gray is assured and smooth, with strong vocals and acoustic guitar riffing. But the CD, which is mostly guitar and voice, sounds like it has a case of “studio freeze,” where the artist is nervous and hyperconscious of getting things perfect at the expense of soul. And Gray does have a deep, warm soulfulness. It’s evident in her live performance, and will be evident, I predict, in her forthcoming recordings. On stage, backed by her excellent drummer and bassist, she reminds one a little of Bonnie Raitt (vocally), Tracy Chapman (the vibe), even the Doobie Brothers (the satiny grooves). The band’s fusion of folk and funk, built around Gray’s rock-solid acoustic guitar work, has both restrained fire and suave panache. My recommendation: see Kierstin Gray live if you can, and keep an eye out for her forthcoming recordings.
Available at CD Baby.