Music Review: Slightly Stoopid – Slightly Not Stoned Enough To Eat Breakfast Yet Stoopid

Hey all…

Every now and then I come out of my cave and find a new band to soak up… Slightly Stoopid came on my radar back at the end of 2008 when I heard the tune “2AM” online. “2AM” is on their 2007 CD Chronchitis. I liked what I heard, so I got a copy of their 2008 album, Slightly Not Stoned Enough To Eat Breakfast Yet Stoopid. I am now a fan.

As I listened to Slightly Not Stoned Enough To Eat Breakfast Yet Stoopid, I was almost mesmerized by their groove. Most songs have a reggae/blues beat that just flows seamlessly from one tune to the next. None of the songs is particularly long (the longest being a bit more than 5 minutes, the shortest a bit under 2 minutes), but they all feel organic. And in a musical market that is full of imitators (for good or ill), it’s nice to hear songs that aren’t forced to be something they’re not.

Slightly Stoopid released their first album in 1996 and have shifted members from time to time, but the constants have been the band’s founders – Miles Doughty and Kyle McDonald. That duo share vocal, guitar, and bass duties. Right now the rest of the band includes… Ryan “RyMo” Moran on the drums. C-Money on trumpet and keyboards. De La on sax and Oguer “OG” Ocon on congas, percussion, harp, and vocals… It’s a great mix of guitar, horns, percussion, and keyboards. And they make it sound so effortless!

The band has been playing more than 200 shows a year to keep their fan base strong and growing (affectionately called the “Stoopid Heads”). And to do that, and keep control of their music, they turned down major record label deals. With their own label now, they’re in control of their own futures.

My favorite songs on the album are “Thinkin Bout Cops,” “Circle House Blues,” “Train 1,” “Train 2,” and “Sensimilla.” But the whole album has a life of its own as it grooves along. I can see this playing in the background at a swingin’ party. The variety of styles the band can play is insane. Add “Closer to the Sun” to my favorites list too — which proves they can even play unplugged. The band does not lack for talent.

Evidently the band’s earlier records had more of a punk feel, so how they’ve morphed into the reggae/blues/rock band they are now is beyond me. But band members are evidently very laid back, even engaging in some smoking and drinking to keep the vibe going. That’s why it’s fun to hear songs like “Train 1” which has a more up-beat almost punk vibe.

Though their recent tour didn’t bring them anywhere near me, I might have to go pick up Chronchitis to hear a different side of the Slightly Stoopid group! It’s definitely on my list of fun party music. If you like independent reggae/blues from a very talented group of guys, be sure to check out Slightly Not Stoned Enough To Eat Breakfast Yet Stoopid. It’s worth your time!

Track listing:
1. I Would Do For You
2. The Fruits
3. Thinkin Bout Cops
4. Circle House Blues
5. No Cocaine
6. False Rhythms
7. London Dub
8. On and On
9. Train 1
10. Train 2
11. Know You Rider
12. Chaunch
13. Supernatural
14. Sensimilla
15. Closer to the Sun

Be sure to check this group out. It’s worth the listen!

–Fitz

p.s. Pick up this album at Amazon or your favorite retailer:

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Music Review: Alela Diane – To Be Still

Hi all!

As a child of the 1970s, I listened to the folk music of my parents’ generation — The Kingston Trio, Peter, Paul & Mary, Simon & Garfunkle — and to this day, those influences have stayed with me. There’s just something about a simple story woven by a folk artist using acoustic guitar, piano, and other instruments to spin a tale.

Alela Diane is one of many of this generation’s new folk musicians, telling the stories her way — with simple guitar melodies, haunting bluegrass fiddle, a simple drum set, and the occasional bass violin. This is the kind of music I’d expect to hear on a porch-hosted jam session.

Every song on To Be Still was written and performed by Alela with accompaniment. Created in 2007 & 2008, she began recording in Portland, OR, and finished her recording between tours and in her father’s home studio in Nevada City, CA. Diane said “It was challenging to delicately yet purposefully incorporate instrumentation into songs that I was so used to singing myself.” She wanted percussion, the “lonesome bow of the violin”, and the harmonies she heard in her head when she played the songs before.

I think she captured what she was after… her voice has a great range of expressiveness as she shares her songs with us, and the arrangements are haunting and beautiful at the same time. Layers that don’t detract from her voice or the words of her songs. It probably helped that she was recording the tracks with her musician father and their friends, including Michael Hurley, who provides some great harmony to back her voice on “Age Old Blue.”

Though I can’t say I’m much of of a fan of the “twang” of country music, I think it works for Diane through the course of this album. The title track “To Be Still” has a steel guitar woven through it that doesn’t detract or become annoying as I sometimes find that style of guitar to be.

“Age Old Blues” with its interwoven harmonies and “The Alder Trees” with its more upbeat and almost celtic feel are my two favorites on the album. But I have to admit that the texture of the tracks works, granting us some amazing, soaring vocals and stories amid the simple but powerful arrangements.

If you are a fan of more traditional folk tunes, I would heartily recommend that you check out To Be Still when it is released on February 17, 2009. It’s worth a few listens.

Track listing:

  1. Dry Grass & Shadows
  2. White As Diamonds
  3. Age Old Blues
  4. To Be Still
  5. Take us Back
  6. The Alder Trees
  7. My Brambles
  8. The Ocean
  9. Every Path
  10. Tatted Lace
  11. Lady Divine

Until next time…

–Fitz

p.s. Pre-order it at Amazon here:

p.p.s. Pick up her previous album at Amazon too!

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The Love Willows – Hey! Hey!

Hey there!

With a mix of pop, swing, and rockabilly, The Love Willows groove through these tracks and sound like they had a great time doing it. If you liked No Doubt’s early work, Brian Setzer, or even Irving Berlin, Hey! Hey! will be right up your alley!

After hearing Hey! Hey!, I definitely want to see this duo live for a taste of their level of energy in a room with other fans. Singer Hope Partlow and guitarist/vocalist Ryan Wilson are unbelievably upbeat. All the tracks were written by Partlow and Wilson, and produced and engineered by Wilson, so this is their sound untouched by outsiders, which is amazing. They’ve even had one song, “Strut My Stuff,” featured on the season finale of The Real World: Hollywood. Compared to some of the other songs I’ve heard featured on television these days, The Love Willows is a breath of fresh air.

According to their MySpace page, Partlow says “It’s all about fetishes, love and hate. It’s a product of what we’ve gone through as a couple, the battles and the glories, everything that’s happened in the past few years.” You can definitely hear the cycle of losing love, finding love, and keeping love mirrored in the progression of the songs on the CD.

“A Day in My Life” starts off the album with a bang. And “Keep Your Head Up” reminds me a bit of the Go Go’s from the 1980s. Struggling to get out of bed and keep chugging along is a problem I think most of us face in our lives.

The frenetic energy of the first two tracks slows down for “Falling Faster,” which tells the story of a girl falling for a guy after swapping phone numbers at a party. “We talked forever, lost track of time / I’ve got to let you know that I am… / Falling faster…”

“Gotta Make You Mine” continues the sentiment, starting to punch the beat back up. Now we’re through the infatuation and want to make the relationship more lasting. Partlow and Wilson sing a great duet for this one.

And then you get to one of my favorites of the album – “Shoes”. I’m not a shoe guy, but this song is infectious and fun. Guitars, bass, drums, and lyrics that express one woman’s true love for shoes!

“I Still Love You” has a sort of Eagles’ feel for me. But amid the high energy tracks of the rest of the album, it seems out of place. That said, by now in the relationship (moving through the CD), we’re going through a bit of a rough patch, but still thinking of one another.

“Wait” tells the story of a girl waiting for her beau. Minutes take forever when you’re waiting and I almost get the feeling that the girl is waiting for a serviceman serving in the armed forces to come home. With our current involvement in the Middle East, this is a highly topical and well done song.

“Mary Jane” is about starting to lose her beau to her best friend. Though I’m not sure if she’s talking to herself or her boyfriend, it’s a call to arms. Time to fight for what is hers! Definitely another fun song with some great lyrics!

But my most favorite song on the album is “Strut My Stuff”. Take No Doubt and cross it with a little Right Said Fred and you get this fun tune. You can almost see the girl strutting on the catwalk of life.

“Try” is a simple duet with an acoustic guitar that expresss the feelings of unrequited love. For me, this is what “I Still Love You” could have been if you stepped away from the overpowering tracks.

“Here to Stay” gets back to the sassy qualities of the record. “I’ve been losing the fight day after day, I’m not backing down, but Baby I’m here to say” – she’s fighting to stay in the relationship.

By the end of the album with “You Say”, the relationship is pretty much done. We’re at the end of the story, ending the theme of finding love, keeping it, and losing it again.

Partlow’s fun and passion is definitely one of the main strengths of the album, but the arrangements are excellent. It’s impossible to tell it was recorded in Wilson’s parents’ house at their attic studio!

Overall, Hey! Hey! is a great album with a ton of fun, infectious energy. It’s impossible to listen without at the very least tapping your toes or even just cutting loose and dancing! Check it out at iTunes (“Falling Faster” and “A Day in My Life” are available) and Amazon (to hopefully be available at the end of January)!

Enjoy!

–Fitz

p.s. Here’s the link to order this CD at Amazon:

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