Music Review: James Maddock – Sunrise on Avenue C

Hi all…

Who knew it was possible to sing cheerfully about heartache? James Maddock has certainly had his share. He had a taste of stardom in 2000 and then hit bottom as he adjusted to life in the States, saw his marriage fail, and had his record label decide to drop him and not release his follow-up album to Songs from Stamford Hill with his band Wood. After that round of bad luck, Maddock disappeared from the limelight. But he didn’t give up during the last 10 years.

In 2009, Maddock came back and is telling stories through the tracks of Sunrise on Avenue C. Each of the twelve songs tells a bit of the story about a relationship beginning, waning, and possibly ending. It’s a rare thing to find an album crafted to be listened to beginning to end. But when you find such an album, I feel you should enjoy it the way it was meant to be heard instead of picking and choosing individual songs.

These songs have a little of everything – strings, guitar, piano – and beautifully constructed melodies and lyrics. It’s obvious he took his time getting this effort “just right” before releasing it to the public.

Among my favorites is the title song “Sunrise on Avenue C” which expresses the doubts in all relationships and the little restarts we go through now and then to keep love alive. Maddock’s breathless voice sings… “We came to make this place our home / you say you’ve had enough you’re movin’ on / … / you say nothing’s quite the way it seems / forget the past, we’ll start our lives again / don’t shake your head ’cause baby I know we can…” I think all lasting relationships have those moments and the rise and fall of the song captures those rises and falls in relationships nicely.

“When You Go Quiet” is another of my favorites. “There’s one thing that you do when you’re not ok / you don’t bang on the walls / you don’t return my calls / when you go quiet… it’s when I know you need to talk… ” Again, Maddock’s captured one of those universal truths in most relationships – those little things we keep an eye out for that indicate something’s not right. And it’s then we need to listen and find out what’s wrong. Tough to pass up a little relationship advice in a song.

All through the album, the music is consistently excellent. From the upbeat piano of “Chance” to the amazing guitar and strings rhythms of “Hollow Love” and the rock/blues guitar of “Straight Lines,” Maddock has put together a relationship album weaving together a tapestry of stories and tunes from beginning to end.

So if you’ve been wondering what happened James Maddock since he hit the airwaves in 2000 and toured with the likes of Paula Cole and Train, look no further… James Maddock is back and in rare form with Sunrise on Avenue C.

Be sure to check out his website for album and tour details at JamesMaddock.net.

–Fitz

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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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