AmerikanPrimitive. Dragstrip Courage (AmerikanPrimitive Music).
A self-described blast from the past, AmerikanPrimitive has acquired a following while gigging at Fusion, the Westcott Theater and the Lost Horizon. The band’s name suggests the bluesy avant-garde finger-picking music genre from the 1950s, but they’re actually named after a novel. (Their website cites an unspecified book about “the exploration of the nature of creativity, a meditation on loneliness and aging, the unreliable nature of memory.”) The group’s first album, Dragstrip Courage, is definitely a leap back to yesteryear with its AC/DC and Black Sabbath-style tuneage. The high production value is a testament to the work of drummer Jeff “The Mole” Moleski, one of the area’s top sound engineers, owner of Moletraxx studios in Eastwood, and a previous Smashing Pumpkins collaborator. Although lyrics leave much to be desired—“car” is rhymed with “bar” and “cocaine” with “pain”—it’s obvious the gang is having fun. Lead guitarist Sue Karlik’s riffs show a real expertise in quoting noise outfits like the Raveonettes. Her husband Matt Pedzick shows flair on rhythm guitar and lead vocals. Ghosts of the past may be haunting Amerikan Primitive, but at least they are friendly ones.
Greg Hoover. Players and Friends (Independent).
Hoover gets by with more than a little help from his friends on his latest release, which was recorded at SubCat Studios with Dave Hanlon on drums, Nick Piccininni on fiddle, and producer Loren Barrigar on guitar. Every song embodies authentic country roots, telling its story with tasteful Southern accents and pickin’ solos that deliberately travel with the music. Summoning back porches and open spaces with traditional country songwriting, Players and Friends weaves through classic American tales of rural communities, young men coming of age, hope and just plain having fun playing music with your friends.
The album opens with a moody piano on “Let It Roll,” which quickly segues into a pleasant rolling banjo through an upbeat ramble that meets with Hoover’s friendly voice. The gentle, smooth and peacefully nostalgic quality of Hoover’s pipes shines on “The Waltz and The Stars,” a song that follows two lovers to their first encounter on the dance floor.
Incorporating all of the usual suspects from an afternoon Sunday jam (you can almost picture Hoover and friends out at Kellish Hill Farm), Players and Friends is saturated with the organic sound of rustic banjos, gliding fiddles, pedal steel and acoustic guitars, mandolins and even Northumbrian small pipes, giving it a warm, earthy, old-timey binding. This music was made for the open road and as a testament to his songwriting, Hoover reminds us on “I Walk the Fields,” that in the journey of life, “going home is the finest thing that anyone can do.” Indeed, a player’s greatest assets are truly his friends.
E.S.P. Reach (Spider Records).
Drummer Karl Sterling and bassist Matthew Vacanti help E.S.P.’s latest effort pop right from the start. With quick additions from Grammy-winning keyboard guest Jeff Lorber followed by guitarist John Magnante, sax player Brian Scherer and percussionist John Heard, the funky first track, “Clique,” piles into a comfortable jazz groove with building guitar riffs, keyboard swells and smooth sax interjections. The intro sets a comfortable scene for the rest of Reach, also the name of the album’s seventh track.
The CD’s title suggests striving for something. Rather than coasting along jazz lines, the group accepts self-imposed challenges to play with time signatures, genres such as salsa and reggae and classic tunes like “My Favorite Things” in their 4/4 interpretation, “Eclipse.” Although the album suffered from substantial setbacks during its two-year making, the end result exudes a slick confidence among the musicians, perhaps aided by the production of Jimmy Haslip of the Yellowjackets, a respected industry veteran.
Likewise, the bright keyboard and B-3 playing of Lorber contributes a powerful, yet subtle secret weapon to the group’s usual four-piece.
However, the most ear-catching of the group is Scherer, who throws saxes, a bass clarinet and flute around the compositions, adding flavor to a satisfying mix, much like tossing the right spice on top of the main dish. The album stays interesting, always reaching into a different genre, for another woodwind or for the time signature or taste of an influence you didn’t predict.
The group will host a CD release party on Sunday, Oct. 16, at 201 Bistro at Wise Guys, 201 S. Salina St., a venue they play often and even give thanks to in the liner notes and through the track, “Salina Street.” The party runs from 5 to 9 p.m., and dinner will be served. There is no cover, but reservations are suggested by calling 214-4596.
Another CD release party will be held on Saturday, Oct. 22, 8 p.m., at Red Sun Fire Roasting Company, First Street, Oswego at 8 p.m. There is no cover. For more information, call 343-2418.
Polar Bear Club. Clash Battle Guilt Pride (Bridge Nine).
For their third full-length, the Rochester-Syracuse quintet showcases 11 rock anthems that possess a Goldilocks-style balance of gritty post-hardcore and pensive indie-pop. The album speaks to those awkward teenage years spent listening to Jimmy Eat World’s Bleed American on the back of the school bus. Lead singer Jimmy Stadt’s lyrics are self- aware and question the feelings of melancholy, regret and alienation that haunt adult life. In “Kneel on Nails” he croons “Have we not grown up since school/ Timid me and gutless you.” Even more tellingly in “Bottle Wind,” he quips “Let me tell you how
the times have changed/ the wasteland isn’t just for the teenaged.” Stadt’s subtle storytelling and gruff vocal delivery make the tone less whiny and more introspective.
Lead guitarist Chris Browne flaunts his six-string virtuosity with sounds ranging from crisp arpeggios to fuzzy feedback, distinguishing one song from the next. His sparse chords in the opening track “Pawner” rise in tandem with Stadt’s vocals, immediately setting a precedent for the remainder of the record. The sincemoved-on Emmett Menke provides solid drumming, and Erik “Goose” Henning’s powerful bass lines establish a heavier underground sound free of fluff.