Reviewed by Harry Kaplan

I have had trouble before articulating, in writing, the style(s) of a particular artist. I am truly at a loss when it comes to Jason Hawk Harris’s “Love & The Dark”. It has at least 31 flavors, if not more. It’s country as all get out but it has some great rock and roll sensibilities that won’t alienate the people that say they “don’t like country”. There is also a very whimsical, almost Broadway show feel to it that I rarely hear when I am listening to a country record. Some of the cord changes and instrumentation is not the traditional country inventory of instruments and arrangements. (more…)

Reviewed by Harry Kaplan
When you think of Minnesota and music, southern rock doesn’t immediately come to mind. What does come to mind are seminal post punk bands like The Replacements, Huusker Du, and Soul Asylum. And those noisy Amphetamine Reptile bands like the Cows and Babes In Toyland. Maybe the musical landscape in Minneapolis is changing and The Plott Hounds are making it happen. Their mix of country infused southern rock is just what Minneapolis ordered. 

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Reviewed by Harry Kaplan
Wow. What a comforting voice! This voice warms me like a blanket on a cold night. This songs all hit me in my wheelhouse. Very spacey and heavenly music to go along with some absolutely soul-inspiring vocals. These songs walk the tight rope between pop and edgy. This is pop with some teeth and some muscle. It isn’t some watered down version of music . This IS music. (more…)

Beth Bombara Evergreen
Reviewed By Harry Kaplan
Poppy love. That’s what I got. Thanks to the beautiful textures and melodies contained in “Evergreen”.  This is the good kind of pop music, good energy, thoughtful lyrics, and performed by the writer. That is a winning formula.
Beth has been active in the music business since 2007, when she launched her solo career. Born and raised in Michigan, Beth now calls St. Louis home , and has since 2007. “Evergreen” is Beth’s seventh release. 
The music on Evergreen is pop leaning with some strong country and Americana influences. A plethora of acoustic guitar fills and a ton of slide guitar pepper this entire release. I would call the entire album a very easy and enjoyable listen. And Beth’s voice is absolutely beautiful. Tinged with just a touch of sadness. 
Tenderhearted (Track 4) is the song that immediately caught my attention. I am a sucker for well executed slide guitar parts and Tenderhearted has a multitude of them. The lyrics are very poignant and offer hope to all of us who are in a  long term relationship:
Tenderhearted lover dreaming fast and wild 
I’ve heard those old stories, you were a curious child 
Grown up to play guitar in a rock and roll band 
Turned your back on the backup plan 

It’s never gonna be perfect 
But I’m still gonna try 
The closest I’ll ever get 
Is you by my side 
All I’m asking is 
Please, come on this ride 

This is a reminder that no relationship is perfect, but they were never meant to be. Beth says, “Let’s not dwell on the negative, let’s focus on the positive.” I am going to listen to Beth. 
The lead into Growing Wings (Track 5) is absolutely fabulous. While Tenderhearted was more upbeat, Growing Wings is definitely more of a melancholy tune. The pace is slower and the overall vibe of this song is a woven tapestry of bitter sweet imagery. The words and vocals are chill inducing. Those piano/keyboard parts are what really elevates this song and takes it to uncharted territory.
I definitely get the feeling that sadness is a continuing theme of this album. No song gives me that feeling any more than Anymore (Track 3). Very edgy music that definitely has an alternative feel to it. Even a little bit on the punk side of things. Punk and country seem to be good partners, as most older punkers eventually gravitate toward this genre.  
Rock and roll is not dead, as previously reported. Beth Bombara puts her own distinctive touch on her version of rock and roll. She has a style that is unique and will not be confused with anybody else. This is an album that will have legs long past 2019 and into the next decade. 
Listen and buy Evergreen

Photo by Anthony Nguyen
From Left to Right: Dustin “Midnight” Fleming, Travis “Mcfiddlesticks” Curry, Guyton “Dixieland” Sanders, Joshua “Fireball” Fleming, Mark “Crossroads” Moncrieff, Corey “Round Up” Graves     Photo by Anthony Nguyen
I’ll write it again, the best interviews are the ones that are more like conversation, dialogue back and forth. That is exactly the way the interview went with Josh Fleming of Vandoliers. Josh explains that that the name Vandoliers is a made up word. It was a made up word. Now it is a real word describing a dynamic band of great musicians. We talk about Vandolier’s new album, Forever, and even touch on depression and anxiety. It is a great read!
JF: Josh Fleming                                                          TL: TwangriLa

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photo by Juan Perez-Fajardo
Interview  by Harry Kaplan
Jon Langford needs no introduction to me. Others may not be so lucky to know exactly who Jon Langford is so I will give a quick recap. Jon is a founding member of the band mekons. Originally the drummer, Jon moved to guitar as personnel changes led to openings. He is also a member of The Waco Brothers, Four Lost Souls, The Three Johns, among others. Our chat was a combination of some reminiscing as well as looking forward.
JL: Jon Langford                                                                                                                              TL: TwangriLa

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Interview by Harry Kaplan
I have been following Cris Jacob’s career for quite a while now. He and his band, The Bridge, have been rocking Baltimore and the mid Atlantic for years. Now Cris has branched out a bit and is no longer a Baltimore hidden gem. He is known. Very well deserved for a guy who is not only a superb musician and performer, he is also a gentleman. A true “good guy”. Cris speaks about his new album, Color Where You Are, touring, and his musical plans for the next year. 
CJ: Cris Jacobs                                       TL: TwangriLa

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Reviewed by Harry Kaplan
This is home turf for me. I cut my teeth at the 8 x 10 in the late 80s/early 90s. There was a real buzz. This is before the renovation. It may not have been the most comfortable club, but it was ours. For a while, almost every national alternative up and coming act played the 8 x 10. That includes Green Day, The Meat Puppets, Supersuckers, and Firehose. Cris Jacobs has played there as much as anyone in the 2000s. There were so many more but it has been a few years and my memory isn’t as quite as sharp as it used to be.
That feeling of being in the right place at the right time came back to me in the very place that I felt it 30 years ago. That’s right, The Travers Brothership and Southern Avenue brought back the magic. The show started around 9 PM, which is perfect for a weeknight. The Travers Brothership hail from Ashville, NC and had been opening some dates for Southern Avenue.
My first impression was that these guys are really tight. They play an Allman Brothers type of set with long songs and lots of improvisation. The keyboardist later told me that the Allmans are one of their biggest influences. Well, these guys sure were able to take the best parts and put their own mark on this genre. Kyle Travers was shredding it on guitar, while his twin brother, Eric was pounding the skins and holding the beat. Josh Clark was holding down the bottom and slapping some funky ass bass. Ian McIsaac was the man on the keys.
Ian has an interesting style of playing where he seems to play lead a lot with his left hand. It really changes up the sound significantly. Ian seems to be the soul of the band and I was seriously digging his key and synth fills. So much feeling. All of the guys are pros. And Josh plays the bass like a jazz player. Their chemistry on stage is palpable. They played a 45 minute set, but I could have used a little more time. Hopefully, they will make their way through Charm City sometime soon.
There was the obligatory 30 minute set break and then Southern Avenue entered the stage. They had an announcement to make: the lead singer, Tierinii Jackson, announced that due to a sinus infection, she would be unable to sing in any capacity that night. But, they really made lemonade out of a pile of lemons. Tierinii was there in the front row, dancing with the audience and keeping the vibe positive.
The majority of the vocals were replaced with the keyboards and some guitar. The result was something spontaneous and completely awe inspiring. I felt like I was watching The Mighty Imperials, The Sugarman 3, or The Budos Brothers Band. It was truly incredible. Not only did the show go on, that is definitely an experience that could help the band evolve even further. It was also proof that they will not be deterred. Don’t get me wrong, we missed Tiernii’s voice. But in spite of her temporary malady, the band picked up another tool for their musical tool box. And that is always a good thing.
Next time I see Southern Avenue, I hope that Tieriini is all healed and belting out those high notes. Until that day comes, I have a fantastic memory of an evening of incredible music and electricity all because a band was faced with a mini crisis and chose to solve the problem by being incredibly open minded. They also displayed that experimental spirit.
Review of Southern Avenue’s new album, ‘Keep On’
Travers Brothership website

 

Reviewed by Harry Kaplan
I  just finished watching Tales From The Tour Bus Season 2: Funk, and I was a little down. I realized that other than Morris Day, everyone else featured in Season 2 is either retiring or deceased. For the retirement segment, we have George Clinton (farewell tour), Bootsie Collins (retired from performing), and Betty Davis (retired since 1979). For the deceased segment, we have James Brown, Rick James, and Prince (featured on the Rick James and Morris Day episodes). Now that I have the personnel down, the fact is that it looked pretty bleak for the funk.
Southern Avenue’s timing could not be better. They are carrying the funky torch forward to put their signature on a genre and art form that seemed to be in danger of extinction. Fear not young funk cadets because what I write next, I write with 100% confidence. Any fan of Funkadelic, Parliament, or any combination or permutation thereof, will be smitten with Southern Avenue. All is not lost, Southern Avenue is a serious funk contender. I don’t want to sell them short, they also do a pretty mean R&B also.
And then there is the singing and musicianship. Top notch doesn’t quite hit the mark. I need to think of something a little higher than top notch. Maybe top notch plus? Everyone in this band is a seriously solid contributor. The bass, lead guitar, drums, and lead and backing vocals are superlative. These talented folks are from Memphis, TN, birthplace of Johnny Ace, Junior Wells, and a whole host of people in the middle.
I think some band introductions are in order. On lead vocals, there is Tierinii Jackson. Her sister, Tikyra Jackson, is also the drummer and has backing vocals covered. Jeremy Powell is the man laying down all those funky keyboard licks. Lead guitar duties are performed by Ori Naftaly. On bass, there is Gage Markey. The horn section on Keep On is comprised of Art Edmaiston and Marc Franklin. All these folks are beyond talented on their respective instruments.
On to the music we go. Switchup (Track 4) is nothing short of a powerhouse. This number starts off with a sample of lead singer Tierinii. And it is funky as I don’t know what. Then we get this Meters-esue bass riff that is just groovy. Pepper in some funk organ riffs, vocals, and some seriously funky electric guitar and you have a winner. Switchup is a winner, no 2nd places for this one.
All the songs are winners. It is very difficult to pick just a few to showcase because there isn’t a clunker on this entire album. Whiskey Love (Track 2) is a track that I can’t ignore. Similar to the lyrics, “I can’t get enough”. Tierinii’s strong  voice is the focal point of this number. She shows off those strong pipes and how much legitimate range she has. Very impressive.
There is one pure blues number on this album and it happens to be the closer, which is a perfect choice. I wrote it before and I have no problem repeating it: Tierinii has an amazing voice. This is one of those special voices and to be paired with her sister Tikyra, that’s triple 7s. We’re Gonna Make It (Track 12) exemplifies those talents to the fullest. Gorgeous.
Considering this is one of my longer and more enthusiastic reviews, I think it is clear what my recommendation is. The torch has officially been passed. Hey George and Bootsy, make a little room for Southern Avenue.
Listen to Keep On
Buy Keep On