New York Music Daily

Love's the Only Engine of Survival

Tag: kenny soule

A Tasty Guitar-Fueled New Album by Demolition String Band’s Americana Pioneers Elena Skye and Boo Reiners

One of New York’s funnest street fairs of the year actually isn’t in New York, it’s in Hoboken. This afternoon at 2:30 PM, Boo Reiners and Elena Skye – the brain trust of pioneering NYC urban C&W group Demolition String Band – are the main attraction at this year’s Hoboken Arts & Music Festival. It’s not the first time they’ve been the stars of this show and it probably won’t be the last. The stage is on the town’s main drag, Washington Street at 8th Street, just a short ten-minute walk from the Hoboken Path train station.

Elena and Boo also have a new album out, I Wait for the Light, streaming at Bandcamp. It’s the second one they’ve released under their own names, after four with Demolition String Band, and it’s notable for being their most rocking one so far. The lineup on this one is much the same as the original unit: Reiners wailing and flatpicking up a storm on Telecaster and banjo, Skye on mandolin, guitar and baritone guitar, with Kenny Soule on drums, Winston Roye and Mike Santoro sharing bass duties.

The album kicks off with the highway rock anthem I Don’t Know, I Can’t Say. With her forceful, soulful, twangy delivery, Skye has never sung better: this song is like vintage 90s Wilco with a woman out front. The second track, Sea of Pleasure has a dynamic the BoDeans used to work all the time –  hushed and muted, then richly clangy, with a tantalizingly  brief, biting Reiners Tele solo out.

The tender ballad Red For You has a hushed vintage 50s Kitty Wells sway with 21st century production values, and a rich web of guitars that build to an achingly sunbaked peak. The album’s mightiest track, the big anthem She’s Nobody’s Girl is the kind of snarling guitar rocker that someone like Miranda Lambert could only wish she’d written. The band follows with the lingering ballad Deep Cool Green Ravine, which wouldn’t be out of place in the Emmylou Harris catalog.

Then they pick up the pace with the burning acoustic-electric Every Day An Angel and its subtle Beatlesque tinges. The duo reinvent Elegant Wind, a familiar number to Demolition String Band fans, as spare Gillian Welch-style folk. By contrast, the blazing Sailor Girl is a mashup of Revolver-era Beatles and shuffling vintage 60s honkytonk.

“Jesus was a peace freak, he took care of the weak,” Skye reminds in the Ramones-influenced Jesus Was a Liberal, the album’s most ferocious and arguably best track. “if Jesus had a radio show, or a tv show, he’d been on after Randi Rhodes, or Rachel Maddow,” Slye asserts, something you might expect from a singer who in the past decade would make it a point to dedicate Demolition String Band’s snarling version of Creedence’s Fortunate Son to George W. Bush.

The lush blend of banjo, mando and guitar textures throughout the wounded ballad Scar on My Heart are among the album’s tastiest moments. They wind it up on an upbeat note with You Keep Me Up, which draws a straight line back to the Emmylou Harris/Rodney Crowell collaborations of about ten years ago.

Karen Hudson’s Long-Awaited Sonic Bloom Finally Busts Out

With her edgy wit, elegant stage presence and a great band behind her, songwriter Karen Hudson has been a mainstay of the New York Americana scene since the early zeros. She’s playing the long-awaited release show for her new album Sonic Bloom tonight, June 13 at her usual hangout, Rodeo Bar at 7 PM sharp. Eric “Roscoe” Ambel – whose legendary Del-Lords have a killer new album, Elvis Club, out as well – produced it with his usual purist touch and played guitar on it. Hudson’s brilliant lead guitarist Homeboy Steve Antonakos, also of surf rockers the Byzan-Tones, zydeco crew the Dirty Water Dogs and Greek psychedelic revivalists Magges joins along with pedal steel player Skip Krevens, bassist and Steve Martin sideman Skip Ward, and Tom Curiano and Kenny Soule sharing drum duties.

“Kicking out some rock, making room for roots” is the opening line of the first track, Late Bloomer and pretty much describes this album. Over a steady backbeat and a tasty blend of twang and grit, Hudson reminds that “Just when your dead flowers have wilted in their vase, I’ll be blooming in your garden some sunny day.” Call Me is not the Blondie hit but a restlessly pulsing Laurel Canyon rock tune. Better Half of Me sets wry honkytonk wit and high lonesome pedal steel to a steady four-on-the-floor rock beat, while St. John’s Isle pays homage to the solidity of the man in Hudson’s life, who is “a rock in the middle of the ocean, while I swim in search of frivolous emotion.”

The best song on the album, Mama Was a Train Wreck looks back in shellshocked anger at dysfunctional family hell, reaching fever pitch with a smoldering Antonakos guitar solo. Better Days makes a good segue with its similarly slow-burning, minor-key angst: it’s sort of an imploring attempt to break through to someone like the monster in the previous song before the guy’s too far gone. A Woman Knows These Things offers some no-nonsense, vintage Tammy Wynette-style advice to a guy with a wandering eye, while Daydream looks at the other side of the equation via a regretful country ballad. Hudson sticks with the classic country on Dead Letter File, memorializing someone Hudson regarded as a beloved brother. The album winds up with the catchy, Byrdsy, janglerocking Beauty of the Now, co-written with Antonakos.

Throughout the album, Hudson’s matter-of-fact vocals carry the lyrics with passion, soul, and rich dynamics, from an insistent wail to a warm, caressing timbre: she’s never sung better. Who is the audience for this? Fans of acts as diverse as Miranda Lambert, Gram Parsons and Loretta Lynn in her prime…and for that matter, Loretta Lynn now.

Oldschool C&W from Trailer Radio

If classic country music from the 60s and 70s with a comedic edge is your thing, you’ll love Trailer Radio. Just speaking for the music, their new album is excellent: the rhythm section of bassist Joe Ongie and drummer Kenny Soule swings, and the band’s two guitarists David Weiss and Mike Dvorkin are an encyclopedia of smartly chosen C&W and soul licks. Not all the songs here are funny, but the ones that are really hit the spot.

If country radio still played country music, the album’s opening track, Football Widow would be a monster hit. It sounds like something Tom T. Hall might have written for somebody like, say, Lynn Anderson, about 40 years ago. Musically, it’s a throwback to the Bakersfield sound of ten years before that, with upbeat honkytonk lead guitar intertwined with pedal steel. Frontwoman Shannon Brown’s bright twangy delivery makes it clear that she won’t accept defeat – and as the song goes on, she gets even. The second track, A Little Too Old and a Lot Too Ugly is cruel, and hilarious, and spot-on: it’s an anthem for any woman who’s had to fend off old Viagroid geezers in bars. It’s also got some sweetly multitracked 12-string and acoustic guitar, too.

Boll Weevil is a surreal, twisted Texas shuffle as Buck Owens might have done it; Southern Accents, a slow soul-infused ballad with more of those juicy, tremoloing, artfully layered guitar parts. With its Del Shannon style 50s rock vibe, He’s a Six is a thoughtful number about settling – and wine goggles – with some memorably surfy baritone-style guitar. The band follows that with Like a Train Left the Tramp, a joyously bouncy honkytonk kissoff song: “I took everything he had except his old guitar and his amp and I left him like a train left the tramp.”

Streets of Savannah is a detour into classic 60s soul music, pulsing along on a mellow Hendrix-influenced groove. I’m Not Leaving I’m Just Looking proves they’re just as good at western swing, then they rock out with the Stevie Ray Vaughan-style 11:59, Brown leaving no doubt that she’s had it up to here. The album winds up with Jack Daniels, a Stonesy rock song that explores the aftermath of overdoing it one too many times. How genuinely ironic that some of the best real country music around is being made in New York City. Trailer Radio’s next gig is on Jan 17 at 8 PM at the comfortable, laid-back Shrine in Harlem.