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SCOTT RAMMINGER/Crawstickers: Ramminger is party animal that knows how to get the party started, high octane Americana/roots style. Knowing how to round up genre like minders as well as other DC local luminaries that have jook joint in their blood, Ramminger is the kind of cat that may never get rich playing music but will always see a welcome mat out where ever he goes. Just the thing you need when the prescription calls for a blues/rock/r&b/Nawlins/frat rocker that knows the moves and the grooves. Well done.

DOMINICK FARINACCI/Dawn of Goodbye: This trumpet young lion, still in his 20s, plays it old school like he was there. Whether kicking it out on originals or classics, he sounds like he knew what it was to hang out with Jai and Kai or make dinner music jazz Sinatra would have appreciated when he had Reprise under his belt. A muscular and lyrical master of sitting down jazz, this is a date of the highest order that's completely disarming and charming throughout. If you really want to enjoy some pure playing and artistry by someone that better be around for a long time, this cat's second album is the place to rest your ears. He may not be bringing the pyrotechnics but the intensity is there in full force. Hot stuff.

NEAMEN LYLES/So Free: Highly impressive young sax man that knows his smooth jazz lessons well and kicks off his debut recording in high gear. If some of this sounds vaguely familiar, he gets heavy play on Weather Channel. Bottom line, this record has the excitement and snap of smooth jazz when it was new, before it became bizjazz, watered down by radio programmers more concerned about the stations ratings than the players career. If you love the genre and really hunger for something new and sizzling, this is the stuff. A winner throughout.

KATE BALDWIN/She Loves Him: So, when I watch "American Idol" so I can be hep to the jive the next day when everyone is yakking about it, I always wince when these kids start screaming and simply wonder, ‘what the hell was that all about?' It took this set by Baldwin to make me realize these kids think they are aping some operatic moves. Sheesh, not only do they miss the bulls eye, they miss the target completely. And it hurts to listen to it, especially when you can hear soprano Kate Baldwin take those operatic turns, hit the notes and hit them right, all in the service of pop and show tunes. And speaking of missing the target, as a lot of our old time masters and craftsmen are starting to disappear, these ‘...and then I wrote' albums become a little more precious---but guys, they could use some sex appeal. I mean we dug all you've done for us but not everyone can deliver like Eubie Blake. So, after Kate Baldwin inducted Sheldon Harnick into the Kennedy Center, she put together this tribute at Feinstein's where she rolled out the red carpet for his silly songs for the Kingston Trio, his unheard trunk songs, his standards, and oh yeah, his landmark show. She even had Harnick share the spotlight for a taste as well. This is how these tribute sets should be done. An immensely satisfying evening of first class Broadway entertainment, Baldwin shows the rest of the country just how and why she earned her Tony, Harnick shows why he's one of the greats and a good time is had by all. Even if show music fans are a small minority of the music buying public, this is a set all of them should own. Killer stuff.

LIZ CALLAWAY & ANNE HAMPTON CALLAWAY/Boom! Live at Birdland: Remember those two dingbat singing sisters from a recurring Saturday Night Live sketch that were so jive they couldn't cut it in a Vegas grind house lounge? Callaway sisters or not, their tribute to the 60s and 70 could have fallen right into that pocket if the back liner didn't read ‘produced by Tommy Krasker'. Luckily for us, he wouldn't put his name on such a piece of crap. There's no question these gals know their way around a song and the thing that keeps this from falling into a dinner theater presentation is when they inject their personalities. It's one thing for them to make a statement that they love the 60s and 70s songs of their youth but until they get us on their side, it would be just another cover album. Some guys just know how to get it done right and Krasker takes what could have easily been Play Doh but delivers it as "The Thinker". Remember him at Christmas girls.

NU BLU/Blu Disc: Now that bluegrass has traveled through space grass and new grass, the young ‘un that grew up on punk and cable TV bring to bear nu grass, front loading the sound with singer/songwriter sensibilities adding an interesting new strain to the old DNA. While these apples might not have fallen far form the tree, they have rolled across the yard a bit and if the moldy figs can't handle it, they are the ones that are going to miss out. The singing, the playing and the bluegrass vibe is all out in full force, but this is certainly well done nu grass for a new generation. A solid work by up and coming pros.

RIVER ROUGE/Not All there Anymore: Roots music for people whose older brothers force fed them Iggy & the Stooges. With industrial Detroit in their blood, I hear a lot more Bowie influence than I do Buddy Miller. There's plenty of malcontent stuff here for college radio to grab onto.

MICHAEL MARTIN MURPHEY/Tall Grass & Cool Water: It really would have sucked to be that one hit "Wildfire" guy 40 years later, but Murphey wisely followed Ian Tyson's lead in moving into cowboy culture music. Being a native Texan, he doesn't have to follow in anyone's footsteps and has blazed his own nice trail through the genre. Always being the personable chap, Murphey repositions many public domain tunes with an easy lope, even when they are on the fast side. A nicely charming set well made for any country fan that wants to go wide of the ‘mainstream' mark. A special bonus is that he understands these songs, it seems like a lot of singers have forgotten that these days when doing outside songs. Another bonus is he's hanging out with a great bunch of guys here that are always a treat to hear from. No wonder he's riding high at the top of the genre. Carry on 3M.

Volume 34/Number 259
July 19, 2011
830 W. Route 22 #144
Lake Zurich, IL., 60047
CHRIS SPECTOR, Editor and Publisher
Copyright 2011 Midwest Record

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