Music Review: Cory Mon & The Starlight Gospel- Turncoats

Hi there!

What is it about the impending arrival of Spring that brings out great new albums? I know Spring is a few weeks away yet, but it seems that great albums are in bloom all over the place. Especially in the folk/rock arena, with artists such as Bobby Long, Lee MacDougall, and Wes Kirkpatrick all releasing albums in recent weeks.

Thankfully, the streak seems to be continuing with Cory Mon & The Starlight Gospel and their release Turncoats that just came out this week. Evidently it wasn’t the easiest project to work on together and there was a bit of turnover in the band lineup while recording. “There was a lot of turmoil,” says Cory. “Artistically, it didn’t work out, but we’re still great friends with everyone.”

Like many bands I’ve reviewed of late, it’s tough to pin down just one style for Cory and the band. They bring aspects of folk and Americana traditions while bringing in bits of country and rock for good measure. And Cory’s voice is the constant across all of it, with a sound that reminded me quite a bit of Big Bad Voodoo Daddy‘s lead singer Scotty Morris. The songs on Turncoats run the gamut from the Western-sounding “3 Step” and the Doors-sounding “Gypsy” to the Bossanova beach party groove of “Dr. Pleasure M.D.” and ’70s-style guitar groove of “Venus.”

Honestly, “3 Step” would be right at home in the soundtrack for a modern Western. (I hear Quentin Tarantino may be working on one and he should definitely give it a listen!) The awesome bass line and sliding guitars give it some serious texture, while it seamlessly slides into a more polished sound with electric guitar solos in the background. All of this along with Cory’s voice telling a dark story about fears of turning into something worse… “Catch me clutching to my crime. / Swear I loathe your jealous type. / You crave possession, now I find my own way home, way home…”

Then we literally slide (via electric guitar) into “Fever” where Cory growls the lyrics about a guy trapped by the love (perhaps lust) of a woman… “Fever / You’re in trouble son / She’s your fever…” It’s his father asking him why in the heck he’s being led by the nose. His father’s been there too – “You won’t catch me trippin’ over wise man’s robes / but why did you go and let her in?” All the while, there’s this amazing bass line and haunting guitars walking the song along.

And then there’s “Gypsy,” which almost has a Doors-feel with a “People are Strange” similar bass line and mixing up the beats and song styles measure to measure. This one is more upbeat than the first two tracks. It seems as though the person singing was looking for advice and may have been confused by the Gypsy offering hers. As he tries to figure it out, he’s playing with ideas… “I think I’ll move to Arizona, where it’s said the souls are warmer / Tired of all these strangers think they read my mind / Turn around they watch you fall, they watch you fall, they watch…”

The whole album mixes styles and rhythms with amazing ease. In “Dr. Pleasure M.D.” it has almost a bossanova groove that reminded me of a beach party, while “Venus” has a ’70’s style guitar that would be at home in many films of the era. It’s obvious that Cory and the entire band have a wide variety of influences, which they mix and match to meet the needs of a particular song.

Cory Mon & The Starlight Gospel offer a unique blend of musical styles that makes Turncoats a great album. If you’re looking for a new Americana band to give a try, I’d encourage you to pick this one up. It’s definitely not your parents’ version of Americana! Be sure to check them out on Facebook and MySpace for news and tour information! It’s available for download on Amazon on MP3.

This article first appeared at BlogCritics.org here.

–Fitz

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Music Review: The Besides EP by J.Viewz

Hey all…

Once again, a fusion of musical styles strikes when I least expect it. Never in my life have I heard a Michael Jackson song done as a jazz tune. And that was just the start of this strange journey into the world of J.Viewz. It’s like stepping into a pool filled with color. Each song lays out just so with elements of electronica, jazz, unique vocals and keyboards, all seamlessly blended together.

Jonathan Dagan established J.Viewz while working with his band Violet Vision on their 2nd album back in 2002. Muse Breaks, Dagan’s first album with the group, was released worldwide in 2005 by Deeplay Music. Since then, it doesn’t seem like he’s taken much of a breath, working to create remixes with artists like Nina Simone while producing soundtracks for the BBC, National Geographic, Fox Kids, and Discovery channels, while touring to support J.Viewz. Though Dagan hails from Israel, there are definitely no language barriers for his music as it travels the world.

The Besides EP was released overseas in 2008 and is just gaining ground in the U.S. with tour dates at the Blue Note Jazz Club in New York City and the Bohemian Caverns in Washington, D.C. in November.

The EP starts off with a jazz cover of Michael Jackson’s “Smooth Criminal” which absolutely snuck up on me. As a child of the ’80s, I certainly had heard the original version but somehow must have blocked the lyrics from my mind. So when I heard the vocals of Noa Lembersky I simply got lost in the song until I heard “You’ve Been Hit By / You’ve Been Hit By / A Smooth Criminal”. After that I was just along for the ride.

Each song grooves right into the next, smoothly transitioning us through a jazz landscape I wouldn’t mind exploring for a while longer.

The band is made up of Dagan, who handles production, the computers, and turntables; Lembersky on vocals; Urijah on vocals and guitar; Eran Asias on drums; and Daniel Koren on keys. As a lifelong fan of jazz, especially where a fusion of rock sensibilities is mixed in, I have to say I love their style. They manage to bridge multiple gaps without missing a beat.

When the last strains of the live version of “Under the Sun” ends and the EP fades away, I immediately started it over again not wanting it to be over. Lembersky’s sultry vocals with the horn, bass, drums, and the ’70s guitar in the background had a groove that didn’t want to let me go. These guys must be a joy to see live.

If you want to hear more from J.Viewz, check out their MySpace page and look for The Besides EP. It’s worth more than one listen if you like jazz.

–Fitz

p.s. Check out other J.Viewz albums:

Besides Ep

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Music Review: InsideOut – Dilana

Hey all…

Back in 2005 and 2006, I watched Rock Star: INXS and Rock Star: Supernova with my wife and girls. We caught every episode almost rabidly, as it was (and still is) rare to hear fresh takes on rock standards on regular television apart from the American Idol franchise. The show was hosted by Brooke Burke and Jane’s Addiction lead guitarist Dave Navarro. Both seasons of Rock Star shared a number of great new rock stars with a CBS audience.

During the second season, we were introduced to Dilana, a singer, songwriter, and performer born in Johannesberg, South Africa. She managed to escape to the Netherlands and then Los Angeles, performing in her own band alongside acts such as Joe Cocker, K’s Choice, and Heather Nova. But until she appeared on Rock Star: INXS, I have to admit we hadn’t heard of her.

With her amazing rock goddess gravelly voice she managed to rock her way into our hearts and finished second runner-up to Lukas Rossi on the show. After that we wondered what had happened to her. With her rock star attitude, songwriting skills, and killer vocals we hoped it wouldn’t be the last we’d heard of Dilana.

Fast forward to November 17, 2009… Dilana’s debut album InsideOut – produced by Dave Bassett and featuring No Doubt drummer Adrian Young and Mötley Crüe guitariist Mick Mars – has been released by Kabunk! Records. Dilana’s definitely back, belting out her own songs, proving that rock star swagger is back in a big way. The album starts off with “Holiday” and leaves us with “The Question”, but there’s NO question that she’s going to leave her mark in the world of rock-n-roll. As she says in “Holiday” – “Oh my life has changed / Like a holiday / Feels so damn good…” Hard to argue with that!

Without a doubt, this is one of my favorite rock albums of 2009. Dilana manages to not only rock out from beginning to end, but manages to do it with a variety of styles rarely seen in debut albums. You can tell she’s put the experience before and after Rock Star: INXS to good use. I found it impossible to avoid bobbing my head and dance along.

Dilana mixes and matches hard, guitar-heavy rock with rock ballads that feature that awesome set of pipes she has. Songs like “LOUD Silence” where she croons “you gotta hold on / in the LOUD silence…”, and “Ice” where she slows it down to show her sensitive side. But I think “Solid Gold” has to be my 2nd favorite track on the album (behind “Holiday”) with its drum-beat intro and amazing guitar rhythms that beat their way into your brain.

InsideOut is now among my favorite albums and will get some serious play in my collection. I hope this isn’t the last we’ve heard from Dilana. If you want a hard-rockin’ songstress with some serious pipes, look no further than Dilana. Check out her MySpace page to get a listen to some of her tracks.

–Fitz

p.s. Pick up some great Rock Star music from Amazon!

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