Sep 082010

The Thin of Thick Things.  Say that five times fast.

No, don’t.

Boulder pop-folk singer/songwriter Eric Forsyth is releasing his second project on September 21, a six-song EP called The Thin of Thick Things.  My advance copy has been in my ipod shuffle rotation for a few weeks now, and when one of Forsyth’s songs comes up, it is one of those moments when I go, “Wait…what song is that??”  Eric Forsyth’s sound is comprised of an intriguing blend of impressive acoustic-roots-folk guitar work underneath, overlaid with Forsyth’s surprisingly smooth, soulful vocals.  It isn’t what I’d call groundbreaking, but it’s just plain good music.

So…is it thick, or is it thin?

Well, both, actually. 

On the arrangement side, it’s thin–meaning sparse, not substance-less.  The tracks are mostly acoustic guitar and vocals, with the occasional bit of mandolin–and while it would do just as well with bass and drums, the sparse instrumentation carries it off just fine.

On the emotional and lyrical side, it’s a little more thick–but not too thick.  Sometimes whimsical, occasionally reflective–autobiographical, even–Forsyth has drawn from both positive and negative recent life experiences to craft the lyrics of the record.  His honest writing gives the recording a decent amount of depth for a six-song effort.

So, yeah, it’s both thick and thin.  A pretty good balance, actually.

If you’re in the Denver/Boulder area, you’ll get the chance to experience the thin and thick for yourself. Forsyth will be doing a CD release show on Saturday, September 25, at The Laughing Goat on Pearl Street in Boulder.  Helping him out will be the new duo formed by Megan Burtt and Ayo Awosika, Travel | By | Skylark.

Eric Forsyth: “Good Days”

Aug 122010

Gabrielle Louise is a best-kept-secret kind of singer/songwriter: not widely known, but when you hear her, you wonder why more people don’t know her. A young artist with an old soul, her jazz-infused folk style reveals a maturity that belies her years. Coming from a musical family, and with several DIY recordings already to her credit, she has the confidence of a seasoned pro.

Gabrielle’s latest latest effort, Mirror the Branches (due to release later this month), lives up to the standard of excellence those of us who know Gabrielle’s work have come to expect. At times light and airy, at other times low, jazzy and smoky, her vocals throughout the twelve-song collection are expressive and nearly flawless. The record covers a range of emotional ground, from the melencholy of “Desiree” to the tongue-in-cheek whimsy of “I’ll Turn Myself In Tomorrow”. Led by acoustic guitars, the instrumentation is understated, the overall tone reflective.

For me, the strongest songs are the folk-heavy tunes–and I admit a bit of bias here, as I prefer folk to jazz. The simple melody of “Strange Summer Snow” embeds itself deep in your brain (in a good way), and “Midnight Molasses” (a cover tune borrowed from Gabrielle’s partner-in-crime David Rynhart, who also contributes vocal and guitar on the record) is a deeply haunting tune that leaves me breathless each time I hear it.

Gabrielle is currently raising funds for the final printing of the CD, and for a minimum $25 contribution she will give an immediate download of the full recording, plus a hard copy of the CD when it is officially released.  You can get your exclusive download copy at Gabrielle’s website.  And for those of you in driving distance, Gabrielle Louise is having a CD release and social tango party (again, you have to know her) on Friday, August 27, 7:30 PM, at Aron Johnson’s Architectural Antiques Warehouse, 389 S. Lipan St. in Denver.

Gabrielle Louise: “Strange Summer Snow”

Aug 032010

D.B. Rielly is an American roots music artist with a two-sided approach to his art.  On one hand, he is quite tongue-in-cheek (or maybe just “cheeky”) in his approach, and on the other–well, it’s apparent he holds a deep respect for the Americana genre.  Both sides of Reilly’s nature are evident on his latest record, Love Potions and Snake Oil, a CD that pledges to be an “instantaneous cure for all afflictions.” (It says so–right on the label.)  The question, of course, is this:  does the record do what it claims?

Yes.  And no. (A two-sided answer–how appropriate of me.) :)

While the musicianship and songwriting on the record are definitely on target, in all honesty I feel that the record has three distinct shortcomings.  First of all, the dual nature of the record itself seems to work against it.  At times Reilly’s songs are heartfelt and sincere (“Save All Your Kisses”, “Love Me Today”), and at other times satrical and irreverent (“We’re All Going Straight to Hell”). And the twisted humor in the song “I Got a Girlfriend” borrows a page straight from “Weird” Al Yancovic’s playbook.  It seems to be intended as diversity, but instead it feels more like several violent mood swings.

Second, roots music spans several genres, and this record apparently tries to span all of them–from zydeco to blues, and everything in between. Granted, all genres are done well enough, but the overall voice of Love Potions is inconsistent at best. Listening to the album through, Rielly doesn’t stay in a genre long enough even to help the listener get used to it.

Third, as far as the music itself, while it certainly pays homage to the historic roots of American music, it doesn’t break any new ground. It sounds more like the music of yesteryear, not like a record made this year.

These three issues I have with the record all share a common thread: the music is good, but the dual theme doesn’t work.  This record feels like it travels all over the place, and doesn’t seem to know what it is, or what it wants to be.  It covers plenty of ground, but lacks focus.

Having said that, imho, the album’s strongest suit is actually its bluesy acoustic tracks just beyond the halfway mark.  Stark, raw and honest, these tracks represent the best of D.B. Rielly.  (I’ve included these as a sample below.) If the rest of the record sounded like this, it would be a classic.

If Love Potions and Snake Oil is inconsistent as a stand-alone record, at the very least it demonstrates Rielly’s range and talent–a sample of what he’s capable of.  And despite its shortcomings, the one message that comes through clearly on the record is his love for roots music.  It will be interesting to see where Rielly’s journey takes him next.

D.B. Rielly: “Changed My Mind”

D.B. Rielly “Got a Mind”

Mar 072010

Regret Night EP

This post is supplementary to my article on

When you first start writing about a local music scene, you are, in a sense, late to the party. You find yourself running to catch up becuase all you have to go on is what you see in front of you, and you have to try and make sense of it without the advantage of previous history.

The first time I saw local powerpop band Regret Night do a show, I wrote a less-than-flattering review of them based entirely on their performance, with a peek at their MySpace page for a frame of reference. That show was a fundraiser to help them fund the recording of their new EP. I could tell from that first show that Regret Night had a fairly solid fan base, which told me there must be something to them–but that night there just wasn’t a lot of substance behind the hype.  So I wrote what I saw, trying to give the band the benefit of the doubt for what I hadn’t seen, and throwing in some suggestions for how they could step it up. 

A few weeks later, I received a gracious email from Regret Night (whom I’d not told about my review), thanking me for my candor and telling me they were taking my suggestions to heart–and inviting me to review their new EP when it came out.  Just the fact that they took the time to respond (instead of react) and invited me to give my opinion again said a lot to me about them.  After all, for all I knew, they’d just had one bad night.

It would be presumptuous to think they were acting on my advice alone (or at all), but since that email conversation I’ve watched from a distance while Regret Night has seemingly been doing several of the things I had put on my list of suggestions.  When I found out that they were finally releasing their EP, Living the Night Life, at a concert at the Marquis Theater last Friday, I felt I owed it to them to see them again and to give their new project a spin.

I’m happy to say that Regret Night did step it up, both with the EP and their concert.  The recording has catchy tunes and great production value, and their live performance (though riddled with technical difficulties which must have been frustrating) was definitely an improvement over the last time I saw them.  And the bands they had with them on the ticket did them proud as well–which was one of the things I really harped on in my previous review.  Best of all, I was able to see some of the elements of their appeal that has won them their fan base, the things I knew must be there but couldn’t see the first time I saw them.

It would be dishonest to say Regret Night doesn’t still have some growing to do. But kudos are definitely in order for these guys, for several reasons.  First of all, behind their carefree party persona, it’s apparent the band hasn’t always had an easy time of it, especially in getting this EP done.  The fact that they pressed through their obstacles to get it done–and did it so well–says they are serious.  Second–simply put, they have grown, likely as a result of their perseverance.  And third, and possibly most important–Regret Night accepted with grace the criticism of a newcomer-upstart and took it seriously.  And that is why I know they will continue to grow–because for bands with that attitude, growth is inevitable.

Way to go, guys.

Hey Stupid
Build Me Up

Living The Night Life EP on Amazon

Feb 152010

"It Ain't Love" by Megan Burtt

This post is supplementary to my article on

I’m definitely a fan of local talent, and always appreciate the opportunity to check out new material.  But to be honest, now that pretty much everyone and their uncle can make a record, I usually start out not expecting too much.  Even among the stuff that isn’t “bad”, there’s so much to compete with that it all sort of blends into a sea of “okay” material, and it takes a little more oomph to rise above the noise.

So when Denver roots-rock singer Megan Burtt‘s new release It Ain’t Love showed up in my mailbox, I put the CD in the car stereo (yes, I’m still early ’90s that way) and drove around, running my errands, half-listening and half-thinking about my errands, to see if anything would arrest my attention.

I got out of the car and went into the store…and I noticed the song I’d been was listening to was still playing in my head.  Good sign.

I kept listening.  While style-wise there wasn’t much I hadn’t heard before, still these moments of promise kept happening–a powerful lyric, a captivating vocal, an interesting guitar riff.  I’d put the CD back on and listen some more.  And some more.  It wasn’t a lightning-bolt-from-heaven kind of thing; it was more like a slow burn that grew on me…enough to keep me listening, drawing me in.  I kept finding these treasure-moments, and I’d go back and listen to those moments again.  Yeah, she’s got it, I thought.  There’s definitely something there.

It really is a solid recording, well-engineered, musically consistent, good arrangements of the tunes–and it doesn’t sound like it was recorded in someone’s closet.  Burtt shows a lot of range, both as a vocalist and a songwriter. Dealing mainly with the darker aspects of love and relationships, the album has a bit of a brooding tone, sometimes angry, sometimes reflective, sometimes cyncial.  It plays like a coming-to-grips record, an honest processing of disappointment and pain.

For me, personally, the second half of the record is stronger than the first.  The early cuts aren’t turn-offs or anything…just not as much there to hook you, just enough to maybe keep you listening.  It’s like the record really starts taking off around the fourth song; and from that point on, you start seeing a lot more of what Megan Burtt is capable of.  Surprisingly, the standout moment of the record for me is the middle ballad, “Moves.”  Sparse arrangements, passionate-yet-controlled vocals, and a memorable lyric come together and create this sort of magical moment. If all the tracks captured this combination of artistry and passion, the record could easily be a Grammy contender. More, please.

All told, I think It Ain’t Love is a strong showing for a singer-songwriter with lots of promise.  Take a listen for yourself, go buy the record, and sit with it awhile, like I did. It will make you a fan.  It will be exciting to watch and see what Megan Burtt does next.

Oomph scale: 8.5

Megan Burtt: “It Ain’t Love”
Megan Burtt: “Moves”

Download the album on Amazon

or on Megan Burtt - It Ain't Love