The Easy Ramblers. Easy Does It (independent). The bluegrass trio, which took home the 2011 Syracuse Area Music Award (Sammy) for Best Country, offers a CD debut filled with relaxed originals that could easily find a home on the soundtrack of the Coen Brothers’ 2000 movie O Brother, Where Art Thou? The triumvirate of guitarist Eddie Zacholl, bassist Dann Mather and folksy chanteuse Maureen Henesey possess an undeniable chemistry that lends to their style dubbed “easy grass.”
All but three songs are written by Zacholl, whose compositions flaunt Henesey’s pretty warble and create a homey vibe. “When My Loving Man Returns,” a CD highpoint, showcases Henesey’s abilities as well as guest fiddler Joe Davoli. Their cover of Gillian Welch’s “Wayside/Back in Time” coheres to the overall aesthetic of the record, not only because Welch is clearly an influence on the group, but because of the old-time bluegrass feeling that runs throughout the tracks. “I’ll Make My Home on Tipperary Hill” helps bring listeners back, reminding that although the band might have a southern feel, they’re based right here in the Syracuse Snow Belt.
Aside from Davoli, the CD also features more friends including Mark Allnatt on banjo, Scott Ebner on guitar and accordion and Tim Herron on guitar and pedal steel, all of which help add color to the trio’s firm folky roots. It’s a throwback album that provokes urges to sit on a porch, drinkin’ lemonade, tappin’ toes, reminiscin’ and ramblin’.
Formerly Un-Named. WARNING! Catchy Tunes... (independent). Hints of Pearl Jam, Frank Zappa and Faith No More flavor this album by the Syracuse progressive grunge group, who offer their take on the shattered American dream. Musical genre divisions accentuate the chronicles of its protagonist, starting with the metal-infused songs that introduce our hero, who is fed up with his dead-end job. Next comes a series of twangy country tunes that place the man outside city limits, as he finds a new purpose for living in the cheesy “Moonshine Valentine.” Unfortunately, by the time “Honky-Tonk Hero” saunters over, a local hunk has wooed away the protagonist’s love interest.
The album takes a bitter turn with the swanky rock’n’roll track “Minimum Wage Woman.” It features such guests as Robyn Stockdale on vocals and Mike Walls’ saxophone riffs and is undoubtedly one of those catchy tunes promised from the album’s title. The angst is piled on with rain-against-the-windowsill sound clips and bemoaning lyrics in “Love Her and Leave Her.” The story ends on an ambiguous note as the album concludes with a completely instrumental and experimental track, leaving the listener with more questions than answers, hanging on for resolution. Keep holding tight.
Leper Pony. Elementary Bumps and Grinds (Koala Syndicate). Syracuse native Gregg Yeti is a master of DIY. He writes and produces his own music, plays all the instruments in his recordings, designs his own cover art and distributes his CDs packaged in brown paper bags stamped with the logo of his own record label, Koala Syndicate, and has been publishing zines since the mid-1990s. Now Yeti’s catching up with the 2010s with Elementary Bumps and Grinds’ extraterrestrial assortment of homemade sounds.
The 61-minute album is comprised of 41 tracks made up on the spot. If you’re looking for Yeti’s typical acoustic pop, look elsewhere. There is no guitar to be heard on this experimental record, although lots of kazoo, homemade percussion and Casio keyboard noodlings make an appearance. And most of the tracks are just plain weird: “Ultra Modern Rabbit Warrens” sounds like a vacuum that accidentally sucked up a Lego brick while “Sundowning” features tribal shakers. The overall sound is more of an amalgam of science-fiction jingles rather than a musical record with a concept. Yet those seeking sonic strangeness from beyond the twilight zone should be in seventh heaven.