Sons of Sylvia: Revelation


RIYL: Bon Jovi, Aerosmith, Rascal Flatts

Don’t blame brother trio Sons of Sylvia if they are a bit pigeon-holed into the country music genre, because that’s not what they are. Sure, the band won a talent competition that led to a deal with 19 Recordings, and one of the band members was a backup singer in Carrie Underwood’s band, but their debut, Revelation, is no more country than Bon Jovi or Bret Michaels. Oh wait….yeah, there is much crossover these days. Let’s just say this is a rock album with moments of twang and leave it at that. And as debut albums go, this is a pretty strong set. The trio is led by singer Ashley Clark and the trio writes together with the help of folks like OneRepublic’s Ryan Tedder, who happens to be their cousin. And while Ashley has a strong voice, one of the drawbacks is that he tries too hard to show it off. The album opens with “John Wayne,” and this is the country rock song Bon Jovi couldn’t seem to write, but with too many vocal acrobatics a la Adam Lambert. But it’s a good one, as are most of the tracks on here. “Love Left to Lose” is a powerful gang-vocal anthem, “50 Ways” could find its way onto an Aerosmith album, and the current single, “I’ll Know You,” is pure pop power ballad. But the best track of all is “Song of Solomon,” a slowly building gem in which the vocal acrobatics are more appropriate. All in all this is a solid debut and this is a band that could have an extremely bright future. (19 Recordings/Interscope)

Sons of Sylvia MySpace Page

  

Saul Zonana: Phatso


RIYL: The Beatles, Butch Walker, Crowded House

Singer/songwriter/rocker Saul Zonana may sometimes experiment with different ideas, sounds and songwriting nuggets, but regardless, his music is almost always melodic and extremely appealing. Such is the case with Zonana’s latest, Phatso, self-recorded and produced in his hometown of Nashville with a small supporting cast. Zonana has also toured with and hung around the legendary Adrian Belew a lot the last few years, and some of Belew’s eccentric ways have rubbed off on Zonana where his songwriting is concerned. Tracks like “Boogyman,” “Mr. Pulsfuss,” and “Direction” are signature Saul, with the same Beatlesque harmonies and guitar tones, and are worth the price of admission here. But he veers left of center a few times, especially on the title track, which features female old-timey vocals and instrumentation. This one sounds like a radio commercial, but as far as that goes, “Really Expensive Cream” is not a song but a comedic bit that is actually meant to be a commercial. It’s funny, but it’s not something you’ll want to listen to over and over again. And two of the best tracks are the acoustic-driven “About You” and “In the Moment.” The former especially is not the type of song we’ve come to expect from Saul, but a really pleasant, stripped-down surprise. And with Phatso, surprise is the name of the game – from a good game at that. (20/20 Music 2010)

Saul Zonana website

  

Josh Rouse: El Turista


RIYL: Paul Simon, your Brazilian grandfather’s record collection

When Josh Rouse moved to Spain a few years ago, nobody really expected things to change with regard to his music career. After all, there are many jobs that can be done from anywhere these days, with touring recording artist being one of them. But along the way, Rouse met and married a Spanish woman, singer Paz Suay, and along with learning to speak Spanish fluently, he also began writing songs in his new home’s language. That’s all well and good, but on his latest, El Turista, Rouse took things a step further by incorporating Brazilian and even Afro-Cuban flavors to the music, including a couple of covers. The entire set also reflects Rouse’s desire to lean toward jazz, without becoming a full-on jazz artist. The result? A mediocre experiment.

There is nothing wrong with trying new things, but the problem with Rouse’s recent musical offerings are that he’s been writing too much – causing his songs to become diluted, at least compared to the stuff he was making in his hometown of Nebraska and in Nashville. It’s not just that, but Rouse is better at the alt-pop thing than he is at the Bossa Nova sound he’s aspiring to, and El Turista is, well, it’s sleep-inducing. That said, dude still has a super smooth voice. The best track on here is the English-speaking “Lemon Tree,” and if you’re in the mood to drink a pina colada and start a conga line, put on the festive “Valencia.” However, if you were/are a fan of Rouse’s earlier material, you may want to run the other way before giving El Turista a listen. (Bedroom Classics/Nettwerk 2010)

Josh Rouse MySpace Page

  

Jimmy Wayne: Sara Smile


RIYL: Restless Heart, Dierks Bentley, Billy Currington

Jimmy Wayne became a country music star so fast in 2008 when the title track to his Valory Music debut, Do You Believe Me Now? rocketed to #1 on the Billboard country music chart, Wayne and his label did not want to waste any time before issuing the follow-up. Fast forward to November 2009, only 15 months later, and Wayne returned with Sara Smile. The title track, as you have likely already gathered, is a cover of the Hall & Oates hit from 1976 that ultimately reached #4 on the Billboard Hot 100, and has been a staple on soft rock radio for decades. And really, if you consider how much success the country music genre has had “borrowing” songs from the pop/rock world, releasing a track that already was a hit is a good strategy when trying to follow up on what was basically overnight success. The problem, though, is that “Sara Smile” is easily the best track on Wayne’s sophomore release, and it’s made better by the fact that Daryl Hall and John Oates sing backing vocals on Wayne’s version. The rest of the songs, while mostly catchy and serviceable, and having been written by the likes of Keith Urban as well as Nashville powerhouse songwriters like Hillary Lindsey and Rivers Rutherford, are pretty good, but not great. Along with the title track, the best of the rest are the upbeat opener, “Things I Believe,” written by Urban and John Shanks; and the sugary power ballad “Counting the Days.” And lest we fail to mention, Wayne is surely one of the better male vocalists in Nashville today, and he has the supporting cast for staying power. (Valory Music 2009)

Jimmy Wayne MySpace Page

  

Rodney Carrington: Make It Christmas


RIYL: Frank Sinatra, Clay Aiken, Harry Connick, Jr.

Funny man Rodney Carrington has been making a living with his comedy for several years now, and music has been a focal point of his show. But Carrington, who has been a regular in the Nashville songwriting community, kept hearing from fans that he had such a nice voice, that he should at some point make a serious record, not just funny, to showcase that voice. Well, Carrington has done that with Make It Christmas, and in the vein of classic crooners like Frank Sinatra but with a modern twist, he’s done it extremely well. In fact, there is no way to tell whether or not Carrington is anything but a professional singer after listening. He even wrote one of the tracks, the swinging (and totally awesome) “The Presents Under the Tree (Better Be for Me).” There are also classics like “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” and “Winter Wonderland” woven in with songs that have a Nashville flavor and songwriter credits like “Mary Did You Know” and “Camouflage and Christmas Lights.” But regardless of who wrote what or what songs Carrington chose for this release, we’re going to steal a line from “American Idol” judge Randy Jackson: “Dude can really sing!” Easily the most pleasant surprise of this holiday season, and maybe the start of a nice second career for Carrington. (Capitol Nashville 2009)

Rodney Carrington MySpace Page

  

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