Reviews roundup – SuidAkrA vs. David Cross & Andrew Booker vs. Paul Oscher vs. Gregory Alan Isakov vs. Murder Monroe vs. Mighty Quinn
Well I hail from the Northern frontier of the ancient Kingdom of Northumbria so have some Cumbric in me. I like heavy metal. And this is a folk metal album called “Cimbric Yarns”. I’m in!
It’s the thirteenth album from German Celtic metal SuidAkrA and continues (in prequel form) the legend of Odoric from “Realms of Odoric”. But don’t worry if you missed that. This is still a rerr treat.
“Cimbric Yarns” is acoustic folk metal at its best. And in a Game of Thrones world you’d hope that a few new travellers will pick up on this and enter the magical world of folk metal. I said acoustic and it is. Very. So even old time SuidAkrA should gird their loins and gird themselves for something a wee bit different. Apparently inspiration was lifted from ancient Celtic texts and the megalithic sites that can be found all over the world and gives rise to an epic soundtrack from a film not yet made.
It’s hard to pick out highlights because it’s one of those records that really needs to be listened to in its entirety as the dark and dramatic music unfolds before you but if pushed I’d probably choose the very folky ‘At Nine Light Night’ and ‘Birth and Despair’ as prime moments. The arrangements are excellent with flutes and a string section adding to the depth of the music. It’s another step away from their metal roots but the result really needs to be heard.
DAVID CROSS / ANDREW BOOKER
Unreleased and From The Archives are usually things to be avoided. Because there is usually a very good reason for those tags. This release showcases music recorded back in 2006 by David Cross and Andrew Booker.
As any fule know David Cross was a member of King Crimson during the 1970s and Andrew Booker probably best known for his time with former Yes guitarist Peter Banks in Harmony in Diversity. They met when David Cross was touring with his own band and Booker with Peter Banks and after the tour was over they spent some time in the studio.
The result sees a lot of loops and electronic percussion coming together with the electric violin of Cross and it really is a product of its time. It’s more in the realms of No-Man than it is any type of “traditional” prog and, if nothing else, shows that Cross and Booker were willing to experiment with something a wee bit different. There’s a lot ambience around as well and a fair bit of experimentation. It’s certainly interesting listening to the likes of ‘Spared Bhangra’ and ‘Worship The Gourds’ being put together but elsewhere (the two ‘Loopscapes’) it seems to lose focus and direction.
As an experiment it has its moments but it’s doubtful to become a regular on anyones playlist.
There aren’t many bluesmen doing the rounds who spent time blowing a harp in the Muddy Waters band but Paul Oscher is one of them.
So he’s paid his dues since playing with Muddy as a teenager and is now based in Texas after relocating from Los Angeles. Turns out he accidentally bought a house three doors down from James Cotton, another blues legend, and after a night out with Mr & Mrs Cotton decided to start playing a local weekly blues residency. Before long he had a red hot band behind him and here he is, with his latest solo offering.
As well as harp, he plays guitar, piano, sings and writes most of the songs. A proper show off. Naturally, he finds room for a Muddy song (Rollin’ and Tumblin’ since you ask) but this is a showcase for Mr Oscher. And a mighty fine one he has two. His is a gruff voice well suited to the old school blues he pumps out on a really enjoyable set. He’s helped along the way by a great band that includes Johnny Ace, Sarah Brown, Chris Alcaraz and Kid Anderson on bass, Russell Lee, Ernie Durawa and June Core on drums, Mike Schermer and Mike Keller on guitar along with horns from Eric Burnhardt, Tom Robinson and Tomas Ramirez. They all put in a good shift and there isn’t a bum track to be found.
‘Money Makin’ Mama’ and ‘Hide Out Baby’ are real standouts for me, as is the tribute to the aforementioned James Cotton, ‘Ain’t That A Man’. He even finds space for some spoken word and a groovy jazz instrumental. An absolute peach of an album.
GREGORY ALAN ISAKOV
There’s no diggin’ my potatoes for this Colorado vegetable farmer. No, instead he’s decided to go down the indie folk / chamber pop route.
It’s the fourth album from Mr Isakov and sees him scaling things back from his last record which featured the Cleveland Symphony Orchestra. This time around there are lots of electronic lops underpinning the bleak sounding tunes. Although a lot of the material is just him he has seen fit to bring in some outside help when he thinks the song merits some additional depth. So you’ll find some pedal steel, string arrangements and harmony vocals popping up hither and thither.
I actually prefer it when he strips things back as he has a decent voice and some good songs so I’m more likely to play ‘Bullet Holes’ than I am ‘Berth’ or the reverb drenched ‘Caves’. But he’s managed to get this far without my support and I’m sure he’s content enough tilling fields before spending an evening in his converted barn studio. One for the Bon Iver fans out there.
Plugged In Revolution
Murder Monroe hail from Texas and first got together in 2017, putting out a debut EP later that year. Originally formed by Marilyn Benefield, Taylor Jones and Robin Murray they worked their way through a few drummers and lost their bass player before settling on their current lineup.
They’ve got a few live shows under their belts including support shows with Crazy Town, Bret Michaels and Jack Russel’s Great White and now have their debut album spreading its wings. The band have some form under their belt with Marilyn Benefield, the band’s lead guitarist having been playing and performing for nigh on twenty five years.
The other members are no slouches either and together they’ve settled on an alternative, modern rock sound that should serve them well. Granted, it’s not my cup of tea but they know their way round their instruments and I recognise a well constructed song when I hear one. And there are a few on offer here. I say “alternative” but, of course, in the modern world that’s what passes for mainstream and ‘Beautiful Liar’ and ‘We Belong’ have strong enough melodies to grace college radio. For sure, it’s an independent release so there are a few recording shortcomings and I might have been tempted to trim down to a stronger EP. But a job well done.
Mighty Quinn & The Oakland Ronin
Blimey! Quinn Walker seems awfy angry about stuff.
Once upon a time he placed some music on the soundtrack to the American comedy TV show “Scrubs” (ask yer Mammy) but these days he’s teamed up with some fellow angry travellers and gone all US punk.
Said band comprises Quinn Walker on vocals, Geoff Saba on guitar and vocals, Andrew Muhoberac on bass and vocals, and Joel Davidson on drums and vocals. It’s their debut as a band although Mr Quiin has had his fair share of solo releases. Here he is in full SJW mode as he embarks on a series of rants about what he reckons is wrong with the world.
It’s US punk, mind, so it’s more Green Day than it Angelic Upstarts so it won’t actually upset foks too much. And there a few pop melodies tucked in amongst the f-ing and blinding. ‘Kilt Kimono’ is certainly poppy enough for radio play although the legally obligatory expletive filled rant about the police and politicians features enough swearing to warrant an 18 Certificate. Naturally, it’s called ‘Rebel’. Because, hey, the man deserves to be taken out with an indie punk song. That’ll teach them. Even the bankers (bastards) get there’s with ‘Love Vs. Bankers’. I can hear the system crashing down from here.
I’m no expert on their back history but 8 of the 12 tracks have the word remix appended to them so may have been available before. Regardless (and despite their potty mouths) they’re all more than competent musicians and it’s well produced and presented. Now here’s hoping there are enough angry 14 year old boys out there looking to kick against the pricks.
St Columba’s Hospice Tribute Fund for Linda Hamilton