Diana Jacobs & Midnite Mood. (independent). Jacobs has got the kind of conviction in her voice that will stop you in your tracks. When she soars on songs like the Woodrow Buddy Johnson tune “Since I Fell For You,” you can feel the weight of her words on your psyche, digging in with every wail of “Lord have mercy.” It’s Jacobs’ pipes that most immediately impress on this self-titled album, yet her Midnite Mood backing band mates are no slouches, either, as they lay a brilliant foundation for Jacobs to build upon. The combination makes for a seriously soulful record that will get asses shaking or slow dancers cuddled in close.
Guitarist-vocalist Mettis and Jacobs make for a powerful band core. With more than 25 years’ performance experience together in Central New York, the married couple’s connection is clear within the music, as their musical lines weave and align beautifully. Jim VanArsdale adds guitar, keys and vocals, Mike Burns is on bass, Sue Ferlenda contributes backing vocals and David Chitambar is behind the kit solidifying the soul. Special guest Alphanso Thomas also kicks up the album’s emotional levels when his smooth sax work glosses over “Remember to Love.”
“Come on Over” is a playful track where the Jacobs bounce lyrics off one other, while the group’s take on “Kissin’ My Love” is appropriately faithful to Bill Withers’ version, with just enough originality to set it apart. For lovers of sexy soul music, attendance at the band’s next local gig—on Nov. 17, 8:30 p.m., at Bridge Street Tavern, 109 Bridge St.—should be a no-brainer. For more information, call 488-0936.
Master Thieves. Nature of Gravity (Melvin Recording). Some people make drinking games out of songs. Listening to The Police wail “Roxanne,” for example, while imbibing every time the words “Roxanne” or “red dress” pop up will have you taking your pants off way too early in the night.
Likewise, you could make a pretty good drinking game out of Nature of Gravity. You could swig every time a certain songwriter and lead vocalist comes up as writing credits rotate among guitarist Chuck Dorgan, bassist-guitarist Jacob Alaniz and acoustic-electric guitarist Brian Golden. Or chug away as an organ, piano, clavinet, Fender Rhodes or accordion solo comes from the fingertips of the incredible Mark Nanni or a fresh tenor sax riff comes blasting from the young and enthusiastic Mike Dufresne. And just to make the stakes a little higher, you could quaff whenever the pure and mighty vocals of Denise Shuart come in to complement the lead, or take it herself.
Better play this drinking game with water or soda, so you’ll still be coherent enough to make it through the CD, one that shows Master Thieves’ significant growth since their debut disc from last year, Robbing the Blind (Melvin). The team of Dorgan, Alaniz, Golden, Shuart and Eric Tozer on percussion demonstrates their musical maturity as well as their ability to share responsibilities and spotlights. It’s engaging just to listen to the changes in writing styles among Dorgan, Alaziz and Golden as the disc hits familiar Grateful Dead-like themes, touches of reggae and pop hooks that get completely wrapped around your brain.
Jams wander throughout, as the lyrics of songs like “Ounce Upon a Time” and “Happy That You Met Me” get stuck on your tongue. The tunes can’t help but fill the listener up with positive vibes, a happy side effect of a solid, feel-good sophomore effort from this local jam machine. From tight songwriting to clean production to the creative and eye-catching album art, Master Thieves are taking all the right steps toward rising up, even if it’s against the nature of gravity.
Maka Rouge. (Makaru Music). From the moment Rouge’s vocals jump in on her self-titled album, it’s easy to hear the heavy Sheryl Crow influence. The songs tell relatable stories about a lady in love or longing and her team of backing musicians nails every tune. Andy Rudy rips on guitar, piano, keyboard and organ while adding harmonies and taking care of arrangements. The rhythm section of Jake Capozzola on bass and Rob Spagnoletti on drums keeps things chugging along, with Joe Davoli adding solos of perfection on violin and mandolin.
Rouge has some highlights in her songwriting, as catchy little hooks from songs like “Glass of Wine” and “Peace in the City” latch onto your ears. Still, her Crow-like voice occasionally comes off more as a monotone whisper. Rouge reaches higher on “I Was Thinkin’ About You Tonight” and dips down on “Deer In My View,” but doesn’t snag the notes with power or caress them with the necessary emotion.
Rouge’s guitar bumps along just fine, however, and she’s got the right musicians lined up, especially on tracks like the bluesy and smokin’ hot “Come Around,” where she shows off some strength behind her otherwise airy voice. For those who have seen the lady live, they know she’s got gusto when she slams on strings and punches up her vocals. Next time she’s in the studio, she’s just got to let more of it go.
The Z-Bones. Another Century (independent). Since 1989, these local groove-rockers have changed their lineup, but stayed true to their Americana roots. The Z-Bones’ current cast includes bassist Lorne Coon, drummer Loule Fortin, Mike Gridley and Eddie Zacholl handling guitars and vocals, and Mike Lounsberry on percussion, harmonica and vocals. Another Century is full of the “melting pot music” they’ve delivered for years.
They pride themselves on the term, one that denotes the various musical genres they blend. Another Century especially showcases heavy influences of a few of those musical flavors, namely blues, rock and folk. Scott Ebner on keys is a valuable addition to the album and is featured on several tracks, including some satisfying organ on the jammy “Ghost Ship” and the soaring “Broken.” Contradictory to its title, “I Don’t Love My Baby” is a fun and playful toe-tapper where we first hear a short sample of Lounsberry’s bluesy harmonica playing. Supplying another dimension is special guest Fritz Scherz on accordion, performing on “Like a Child” and “Sugar Daddy” while adding an enjoyable country vibe with pleasantly scratchy vocals.
The background harmonies sound best on “Ready to Go,” while the lead on “A Country Mile Away” occasionally resonates with a tone similar to that of Bob Dylan. The final number of this all-original 10-track album, “Ride That Rail,” is easily their most lively selection. With a walking bass line, fluttering drums, melodic guitar and harmonica solos, and intentionally snarling vocals over a prototypical blues progression, The Z-Bones wrap up their fifth installment on a note that leaves you waiting on their sixth.