taking a listen
taking a listen
reviews of local & state music CDs
THE DYNAMITES FEAT. CHARLES WALKER — Burn It Down
When funk music is good, you might wonder why it ever fell out of the mainstream listening public’s favor. When it’s just average, however, it can get really boring really quickly. Nashville’s retro ensemble Charles Walker & the Dynamites (www. myspace.com/thedynamitesband) struggle through a brief bout with mediocrity on their second album Burn It Down, but firmly entrench themselves atop new-funk’s second tier. That may sound like a slight, but the album lacks the musical variety of pure instrumentalists the New Mastersounds and they fall short of attaining the silky lyrical rub of Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings, but either might be asking a lot of any band. What they do well is lay down hard, danceable grooves from one track to the next, along with interjecting slower numbers to keep the pace fresh. Walker takes a stab at social commentary on songs like “Do the Right Thing” and “Somebody’s Got It Better,” along with the obligatory Obama reference on the album’s title track, but it often seems distracting and forced. His voice is gritty and expressive, which does complement his band’s intricate grooves and agile tempo changes on songs like “The Third Degree” and adds just the right touch to the sweet and sentimental stuff like “I Got Love (For You).” They have the formula of booty-busting rhythm, stout brass and wah’d-out guitar nailed; now if only they could come up with consistent vocal hooks, they’d truly be dynamite.
ADAM STEFFEY — One More For The Road
The bluegrass world has long rewarded the efforts of those who punch the clock and pay their dues, and it’s about time that decorated mandolin player Adam Steffey (www.myspace.com/adamsteffey) got his much-deserved props. The five-time Grammy winner and seven-time IBMA Mandolinist of the Year’s last album in 2001 was far under the radar, but the star power alone on his newest release One More for the Road is sure to give him the name recognition he deserves. He’s spent years performing with Allison Krauss & Union Station and the Dan Tyminski Band, so it’s no coincidence that both Krauss and Tyminski show up to lend their expert vocal and instrumental support, but they aren’t alone. A veritable cast of who’s who in bluegrass make Steffey’s second solo album in eight years a must-have for any bluegrass aficionado. The layers of rollicking string blend effortlessly from the opening instrumental number “Deep Rough” to the hallmark tale of old-time woe on the album’s title track. Steffey dabbles a little deeper into bluegrass’s Celtic heritage on “Durang’s Hornpipe,” as Krauss’s definitive voice dominates possibly the album’s best track and what could be a bluegrass classic in the making on “Warm Kentucky Sunshine.” If there are any drawbacks to this album, it’s the genre that it falls into; a niche market whose nuances often befuddle the lay listener. For the fan, however, One More For The Road is a can’t miss.
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