taking a listen

by Ryan Snyder

reviews of local & state music CDs >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

BOY GENIUS Staggering

It might not be possible to do a better job of matchmaking than the pairing of the charming, Brooklyn-based popsters Boy Genius ( and janglemeister Mitch Easter, and it shows on the band’s second release, Staggering. The band mainlines chimey pop goodness straight to the vein, minus the miasmic sense of self-importance that infests their native town. Easter’s presence permeates nearly every facet, as the album is highly reminiscent of the ’80s collegeradio pop scene of which he was an integral structural component. As such, there are plenty sunny guitar hooks and spritely harmonies to go around, but there’s a distinctive country inflection in Jason K’s vocals, the soft edges of which are highly suggestive of Donna the Buffalo’s Jeb Puryear. It’s easy to get lost in this album without really having to think too much about it, frankly because there’s little lurking underneath the surface of lyrics like “you need love, love, love/L- O-V-E, love” on the lead single “Blame Love.” Then again, this isn’t a genre that demands particularly deep introspection now or at any time in the past. Songs like this and nearly every other track on the album that elicits similarly warm feelings serve just that purpose: feel-good music without much pretense and Staggering offers plenty of that.


DAVID VIA All Night Long

With a decades-long career that has inserted him as a staple of the NC- and Va. roots-music communities, Greensboro resident David Via ( has surely made an indelible impression on fans of bluegrass, old-time and country music here and beyond. His newest release All Night Long is at worst another chapter in that legacy. At best, it’s a self-made family scrapbook, with bits and pieces from every facet of his career brought together to illustrate a bigger picture. The reference behind the album’s title is made clear within the liner notes, as Via’s message to his closest friends ends with him playing to them “all night long,” which sums up his humble and giving musical persona rather concisely. With Via himself at the production helm, his touching and forthright songwriting is bolstered by the presence of so many of his “Bluegrass Buddies,” i.e. close friends and Nashville greats alike. You’ll find those beloved primarily among the bluegrass community, such as Jim Van Cleve and Wyatt Rice; jam-scene pioneers like Leftover Salmon founder Vince Herman; and Grammy winners Dan Tyminski and Dennis Crouch. The list of players goes on and on, providing a personal touch to each of the album’s 12 tracks. The songs range from funny (“Boones Mill”) to poignant (“Eminent Domain”), but it’s the familial spirit behind it that makes it such a joy to behold.