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: Metal & Wood – Tyrone Wells

Hi all…

Just about a year ago I had the opportunity to review Tyrone Wells‘ album Remain. Tough to believe that it’s been twelve months. And now he’s releasing an acoustic album called Metal & Wood that proves he continues to mature and develop as an artist.

Wells has once again brought compelling, socially-conscious lyrics into sync with rhythms and melodies that provide additional layers. Add to that his soulful voice and gift for putting his emotion into a performance and you begin to see a pattern emerge between Remain and Metal & Wood. I’ve always found that when you strip an artist down to the bare essentials of acoustic performances, you hear their true talents emerge. Without a doubt, Wells is the real thing.

This album opens strong and doesn’t let up. But when I started listening to the title song – “Metal and Wood” – Wells had me from the opening strum. Using traditional folk guitar styles and merging them with the edge of rock/pop, the song calls to listeners to make the world a better place for our children for we won’t be here forever. “We took the music from the schools / and left the darkest gaping hole / where will our children be / if they don’t learn to sing / millions of voices fallen silent til they’re gone…”

“Metal and Wood” really hits home for me as a parent of two young kids. As a product of the public school systems of the State of Colorado, much of who I am was courtesy of the art and music programs in my schools and the wonderful teachers who knew those programs were building more complete kids. I wonder where we’ll be when the arts are totally gone. I’m not sure I want to find out. Without music the world would be a very dreary place. So bravo to Wells for bringing up this issue close to my heart.

Another song that stands out is the duet with Jason Reeves called “Give Me One Reason,” which has some beautiful harmonies from the very beginning. It’s about two people in a troubled relationship like two stars orbiting each other and waiting for an opportunity to escape their gravity. “You’re like a shadow that I cannot hold on to / I’m not a prison / I cannot tie you down” he sings hoping that she gives him one reason to stay.

And “Use Somebody,” which I’ve heard on local radio stations from the Kings of Leon, gets a nice acoustic makeover. This is a simpler, slower version that really lets the melodies, the lyrics, and the guitar come out loud and clear. It’s a great cover.

The whole album really cruises along to a mix of wistful, romantic tunes like “Running Around in My Dreams” to the more serious “Metal and Wood” and “Give Me One Reason” to the bluesy beats and happy lyrics of “And the Birds Sing”. We could all use a bit more sunshine as Wells sings “it warms your skin and the soul within as the birds sing…”

Really that’s what hits me about this album. Where Remain focused on a bit darker subject matter, Metal & Wood focuses more on the happy side of the equation. In a time when the world has its own issues, it’s great to have a positive message now and then. I’m a fan.

So if you’re looking for more Tyrone Wells and something a bit different than Remain, be sure to check out Metal & Wood which will be released March 2!

–Fitz

p.s. Pick up this and other Tyrone Wells albums at Amazon below!

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