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NAPA VALLEY DUO/Soft Message to You: Staples of wine country soirees, this cello/piano duo know their audience and region well. They can play anything and make it all just right for wine tasting times moving from chamber music to pop giving it all the right gravitas. This set relies heavily on their classical side but they do manage to tip the cap to another area stalwart, Denny Zeitlin, fittingly giving him his earned place among the classics. All played without any egghead moves, this is a solid move for light classics.

NATHAN IGNACIO/Step Behind: A troubadour fitting in somewhere between Townes Van Zandt and John Prine, he tells the tales of ordinary life and what lurks beneath the surface. With a wry eye on the proceedings, he's back porch music with bite.

ANDREW DURR/Time Frame: A folkie that doesn't write his own stuff, he's constructed a vision of dust bowl migrant workers that is eerily similar to things going on today. Pulling from a range of period sources, he's constructed an audio play in song underscored by songs to good to be forgotten---even if you wish the times would come again no more. Expressive and evocative, this is a hard hitting set in it's own way that really makes you think but is constructed in such a way that it enlightens rather than depresses. Well done.

JAMES BLONDE/Stockton Rhythm: IAC label owner shows his love for classic power pop by leading his trio with an assumed name and letting his almost Todd Rundgren flag fly. Pomo party music that just is loaded with the feeling of partying the night away with gals that look like the Go-Gos waving their hands in the air like they just don't care. Fun stuff that brings fun times into the present.

JAMES BLONDE/International Orange: With Liz Phair bringing some Guyville bands out of moth balls for her current tour, can other regions be far behind? The power pop is still in effect here with this trio's second set showing some moves that come with maturity but keeping their core vibe in tact. These cats know how to provide a wild ride.

DIRK HAMILTON BAND/Live at the Palms: It's been a while since this cat had his ups in the show at Elektra and ABC and the decades away from the bigs have had him sharpening his focus out on the back 40 leaving him on these shores as more than an acquired taste. Mature singer/songwriter stuff, with some tracks here going back 40 years, Hamilton is now a first class, sitting down singer/songwriter that keeps you in your seat in rapt attention. Like the product of the wineries in the area where this was recorded, he's gotten better with age.

ERIC WESTPHAL/Alice Street Sessions: Stepping away from his group personae to focus on his adult songwriter side, Westphal wears his maturity well as this is the kind of thing that Al Stewart fans can get right off the bat. Textured and deep with lots of food for thought to chew on, Westphal crafts a unique experience here that should be welcomed by adult ears looking for that meaty thing existing out of the ordinary.

WILLIE HINES/Letters to Maria: A former 80s hard rocker grows up and writes a song cycle of love songs to his wife. A hot AC take on domestic bliss, anyone missing the schmaltz rockers of yore should check out his Amazon page.

NAQPA VALLEY DUO/American in Paris: You knew this cello/piano duo wasn't all about keeping it serious even if they seemed high minded on their first set. Here they make their intention s clear by making a Star Trek/I Love Lucy medley and plying more originals and non-classical inclusions. Still in touch with their place and audience, it's delightful they way they widen the scope on this outing letting every at the party know they are here for a good time too.

Number 41/Number 359
October 25, 2018
830 W. Route 22 #144
Lake Zurich, IL., 60047
CHRIS SPECTOR, Editor and Publisher
Copyright 2018 Midwest Record

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