Various Artists. My Heart’s Right There:
Songs for Tipperary Hill (Tipperary Hill Music Festival). True to its title, Songs for Tipperary Hill offers a dozen homages to the neighborhood with the upside-down traffic light. Tipperary Hill Music Festival founder Eddie Zacholl lends his friendly croon to the highly infectious solo cut, “Tipp Hill Town,” over a warm mesh of Byrds jangle and country texture; and a little bit of percussive guitar choogling in “Everybody’s Neighborhood” by his jam-friendly group The Z Bones. Elsewhere, the Tipp Hillbillies give a shout-out to the Blarney Stone in “Box of Wine” and the Tim Herron Corporation proffer a stuck-inthis-town blues about the hill that’s “killing my will.” Balancing the rock-based tracks here are a couple tunes in The Chieftains’ modern-acoustic mode (Maureen Henesey’s “I’ll Make My Home on Tipperary Hill,” Joanne Perry’s “Song for Stonethrowers”) and no less than two (!) a capellas including Dennis Heaphy and Joanne O’Connor Balduzzi’s rendition of the Saint Patrick’s High School Alma Mater. More than just a scene snapshot, My Heart’s Right There: Songs for Tipperary Hill welcomes you into its rich milieu and gets you a little buzzed.
Tim Herron Corporation. Talkabout (independent). If the covers Tim Herron and company sometimes incorporate into their sets—“Creep” by Radiohead, “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover” by Paul Simon—don’t fully hint at the band’s dark corners, Talkabout does. Herron addresses life’s empty chatter in the title cut (“not much to say anymore”), kisses off an old flame in “Out of My Life” (“God knows I don’t have time for this”) and restlessly pines for change in “Need to Get Rollin’.” But sunny shores always live on the flipside: Herron proffers an equal number of songs about hope and special someones, and throughout the album favors bright chords and warm (and sometimes acoustic) tones. You could call Talkabout a jam band album, with a couple grooves that stretch to eight minutes, but the disc expertly plies the genre on its own terms.
Dave Hanlon’s Cookbook. Hot & Sweet (Tasty Tracks Records). The CD cover depicts a chili pepper alongside shaved chocolate: main ingredients for the music herein.
Humid, window-fogging rhythms speak to your body (“Party Started,” “Knuckleheads Ball”) while soaring choruses sate your melodic thirst. Dig how singer Ava Andrews’ voice in “Lost in Your Love” ascends into a minichoir, splashing over Ed Vivienzio’s liquid keyboard lines. Wow! Andrews and Vivienzo, along with bassist Jimmie Spivey and guitarist Lee Tiffault, wrote seven of these solid tracks. The rest are choice covers, including James Brown’s “Sex Machine,” which finds Tiffault and Spivey recalling the synergy of Browns’ famous six- and four-stringers, Collins brothers Catfish and Bootsy. Oh, and did we mention Mr. Hanlon? The group’s namesake is uniformly stellar on the drums throughout: anchoring, filling, texturing, beat juggling, even soloing in the final track, “Ain’t No Stopping Us Now.” The epic tune doesn’t end per se, just fades out into silence—for a breather, if you will, until the next party starts.
El’Kabong Rides Again. Hola! (independent). Frank Rhodes of Smokin’ fame checks in with a project he dubs El’Kabong Rides again—a cover trio whose tastes lay at the intersection of rockabilly, electric blues and garage rock. The delivery is exactly as loose and spirited as you’d want with a track list that includes “Kill My Baby” (by Fabulous Thunderbirds alum Nick Curran) and “Honky Tonk Hell”, a barn-burner by frequent Dave Alvin sideman Ted Roddy. While the rhythm section of drummer Jimmy Larotta and electric bassist Andy Peebles specializes in subtle variations on the galloping one-two shuffle, they ably conquer the twisty surf-rock of Los Twang Marvels’ “Mr. Twister” and slow things down just enough in Solomon Burke’s “You’re the Kinda Trouble” to let their scarily tight interplay get the spotlight. Rhodes’ rhythm-based guitar lines and gruff vocals are the glue behind these diverse obscurities, but honestly the highlight is the track list, which would be impressive enough if culled for a mix tape—let alone a full-on covers album.
Leo Crandall. I, Murderer (independent). As the cellist and guitarist for the Gonstermachers, Leo Crandall has helped craft some of the most downright haunting and original Americana we’ve heard. I, Murderer ups the haunting factor further, if that’s possible: There’s less recognizable blues and more song-specific orchestration using more instruments.
Fellow Gonstermachers Curtis Waterman (harmonica), Hymie Withoft (drums, percussion) and Richard Curry (washtub, vocals) lend hands here, as do a halfdozen others on such unconventional-but-mesmerizing animals as hurdy gurdy (Mike Fierce) and accordion (Bob Alexander). Crandall accompanies his own playing—on guitar, cello, bass violin and requinto—with his own baritone croon, which brings to mind Mark Lanegan in the way it conveys both world-weary reflection and smoky rapture. There’s some Tom Waits and Nick Cave in there, too, but whereas Waits is big on old-weird-America imagery and Cave likes descanting spirituality, Crandall’s themes usually deal in some way with transcendence. A sparrow flies out of the blackness; souls rise on a column of air; a trumpet is heard from angels; a ruthless dream bears down in the night, like a hawk, eyeing its mark. The lyrics are no afterthought here—lines like “now the blossoms have lost all their color/ champagne has dried in the sand/ I have laid down all of my burdens/with the last bit of warmth from my hands” could probably have only come from a guy who graduated summa cum laude with an English degree. (Crandall did.) And while it’s not always totally clear what the meaning is behind the symbology, I, Murderer only asks that you let it transport you, which it does—with strange, old-rooted, sepia-toned, sometimes bewildering majesty. Truly, you need to check this out if Waits, Cave or 16 Horsepower (or, of course, the Gonstermachers) speak to your musical tastes. (Oh, and the illustrated lyrics at www.leocrandall.com are awesome. Just sayin’.)