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Album Review

Hannah Dasher – ‘The Half Record’ [EP] [Album Review]

Embracing the time-tested show biz axiom, “always leave ’em wanting more,” Hannah Dasher’s EP ‘The Half Record’ (Sony Music Nashville) says what it’s gotta say and gets off the stage in short order.

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There we were — just the two of us, chillin’ in the dressing room following a sold-out enormo-dome show somewhere in the Midwest. I’d just served him his after-show dinner when the pontificating, iconic rock star for whom I worked paused from his eggplant entrée to offer me a random slice of personal philosophy. “All we have in life is our reputation,” he said.

What elevated so many traditional country artists of the ’60s and ’70s to enduring legendary status was their reputations as real working-class people. In those days, Nashville’s leading men were often flawed fellas, sharing unfabricated personal stories of loose livin’, fast drinkin’ and doin’ time. Unlike today, female country chart-busters of that era weren’t twiggy spray tan floozies with T-backs and tramp stamps. They were hard-workin’, family-focused, full-figure gals with a feminine font stitched across the front of their full-back hip-huggers. Must be Saturday.

Reputation remained no less paramount to the world of country music in ensuing years. Owning an array of nudie suit jackets, skin-tight denim britches and low-riding cowboy hats, along with lonesome vocals and arsenals of explosive songs, a menagerie of artists earned well-deserved reputations for being “the real deal” when they arrived on the scene throughout the ’80s and ’90s. Then came the 2000s. Controlled by a contingent of less compelling characters, contemporary country music morphed quickly into soulless swill — a homogenized hybrid of hip-hip and electro-pop, splashed with a pitcher of iced sweet tea.

But not all of today’s up-and-comers are digitized snapback hunks in V-necks. Nor are they all computerized woo-girls in belly shirts. Truth be told, there are a great many new country artists with impeccable reputations for making amazing music — they’re just relegated to the underground — buried so far beneath the basement at CMT, it’s tough to find all the bodies. But they ARE there. Thank goodness for Circle — if not for that country music television network, I may never have found Hannah Dasher.

Of all the belles at the ball, Dasher has not (yet) been crowned the “Queen of Country.” However, she just might be the “Princess of Polyester.” And although the native Savannah, Georgia singer/songwriter probably hasn’t actually cultivated 100% of her sky-high doo, her music absolutely IS 100% legit.

In the process of paying her dues, Dasher built important professional relationships and cemented a solid songwriting reputation. After struggling for a spell in Music City, she signed a publishing deal. Then came a recording contract with Sony Music Nashville, followed by a couple of warm-up singles; “Stoned Age” (2018) and “The Tree” (2019). In 2021, she’s released her debut EP, The Half Record.

If you’re a modern-day female country artist pulling pages from the Taylor playbook, you’ll possibly produce some semi-pleasant pabulum. But if you’re attending classes across the tracks, down at the old school, and your teacher is Tanya T. then you’re gonna write tunes with teeth, AND you’re gonna look pretty dang spectacular while you’re doing it. That’s what makes Dasher such a rare treasure — she’s the whole package — gen-u-wine classic country — from her colossal coif to her reliance on Revlon to her retro-style, spangly bellbottom pantsuits, custom-designed by Ashlyn Evans, to her true blue “Hello, Darlin’” drawl. Of course, there’s also her music.

Hannah Dasher by Kylie Rebecca

When Dasher is seen perusing a pile of vintage 8-track tapes in the back lounge of her well-preserved, pre-owned tour bus at the tippy of the record’s must-see/must-hear leadoff video single, “You’re Gonna Love Me,” she reveals her honest and pure passion for Smokey and the Bandit era music and lifestyle — a point proven further by the song’s Waylon-inspired, Telecaster-meets-phaser intro. A self-described, “lyric junkie,” Dasher shows the depth of her downhome roots in clever verses that crash into a catchy chorus — My people call me Hannah. H to the Damn to the D!

Peppered perfectly with peddle steel, the opening track, “Leave This Bar,” bursts with authentic honky-tonk imagery and a massive chorus large enough for Dasher to park her papaw’s John Deere. A prime example of what she refers to as her “retro fresh” factor, “Left Right” swaggers over yonder, somewhere between Lorettaville and Tammytown.

The record’s second video single, “Shoes,” is an irresistible breakup ballad and a magnificent example of classic country-style song-crafting — If I was in your shoes baby, I’d come running back to me. The only track without a Dasher co-writing credit, “Girls Call the Shots,” is another top-shelf heartbreaker — Guys buy the drinks, girls call the shots.

Oddly, despite the allure of the record and her undeniable reputation as one of Nashville’s best and brightest young songwriters, Dasher is gaining her greatest traction on TikTok. With bouncy biscuits bursting from the blouses of various Dolly circa ’75 ensembles, her lively Stand by Your Pan video cooking series has garnered Dasher a staggering 1.5 million followers on the popular social media site. And with stats like that, it’s not surprising that Dasher reportedly has a cookbook in the works.

Embracing the time-tested show biz axiom, “always leave ’em wanting more,” Dasher’s EP says what it’s gotta say and gets off the stage in short order — a mere 14-and-a-half minutes, to be precise. A satisfying, moonshine-soaked seduction, it’s concise enough that ya don’t lose concentration, yet (just) long enough to achieve full chub. While it’s hardly a deal-breaker, the songs can get a smidge city-sounding in a spot or two. Finding a fiddle phenom also would have further enhanced the overall savory hillbilly flavor. However, The Half Record is still the tastiest treat to come across my table since my mamaw’s hotcakes back in ’67. And one can only hope that the “suits” at Sony will harness the hipness to release Dasher’s future releases in physical formats — particularly on (colored) vinyl. Or maybe even on 8-track. Just wedge a matchbook in the deck under the cartridge and it’ll play just fine!

The Half Record Track Listing:

1. Leave this Bar (3:14)
2. Left Right (2:55)
3. You’re Gonna Love Me (3:04)
4. Shoes (2:40)
5. Girls Call the Shots (2:32)

Run Time: 14:25
Release Date: July 9, 2021
Record Label: Sony Music Nashville

Christopher Long is an author, show biz analyst, TV / radio contributor, award-winning musician and entertainment personality. Referred to once as “the rock and roll Erma Bombeck,” Long is known for his conversational, common sense writing style and passion for sharing his unique perspectives on pop culture. Raised in Missouri's rugged Ozark Mountains and on Florida's sunny Space Coast, Long currently lives in Cocoa Beach. (AuthorChristopherLong@yahoo.com)

Album Review

Wabi Sabi – ‘The Love Insane’ [Album Review]

‘The Love Insane’ displays the psychedelic jazz band persona of Wabi Sabi and their talent shifting from genre to genre with aplomb.

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Wabi Sabi ‘The Love Insane’ album artwork
Wabi Sabi ‘The Love Insane’ album artwork

About seven months ago, Atlanta-based ensemble Wabi Sabi released their fourth album, The Love Insane, a record that not only flew under the radar but was also impacted by the pandemic, resulting in it being self-produced.

Pianist/vocalist Damien Cartier explains, “This is the first of our albums that I have produced myself. We have never done an album this way, but Covid mixed with having a spare bedroom home studio seemed like the perfect time to try.”

The genesis of Wabi Sabi occurred in 1999. Initially comprising piano, trombone, and drums, the band’s name was Damien Cartier And His My Newt Orchestra. Before long, the band added horns, bass, guitars, percussion, and singers. However, there was a problem: the band’s name, the spelling of which stymied people.

Then Damian saw an episode of King Of The Hill where Bobby discovered the concept of Wabi Sabi, a Japanese aesthetic that perceives beauty in imperfection and transience. Enter the band Wabi Sabi, whose unique sound amalgamates elements of soul, funk, reggae, and pop with tangs of jazz.

The Love Insane begins with “The Truth,” opening on a soft, low piano topped by tender vocals, mirroring pensive tones. The melody blends savors of rock and jazz, forming a dreamy, almost psychedelic flow of floating textures.

Highlights on the album include the title track, conjuring up the swaying soul surfaces of the ’60s, tinted with twangy, country-laced guitars. Cartier’s vocals are spot-on and convey touching, quixotic aromas.

New Life,” a personal favorite, evinces suggestions of Steely Dan because of its deliciously trippy-lite surfaces and grand brass accents that bray forth finessed tones. The funky “Not Yet, Sister,” with its hints of reggae, features bright horns, skiffing guitars, and a neighing organ.

The album finishes with “The Weirdo Blues,” a luscious fusion of bluesy jazz and orchestral flavors. There’s a delightful, sleazy sensation to the tune, imbuing the song with benevolent craziness.

The Love Insane displays the psychedelic jazz band persona of Wabi Sabi and their talent shifting from genre to genre with aplomb.

Wabi Sabi, photo courtesy of Wabi Sabi

Wabi Sabi, photo courtesy of Wabi Sabi

The Love Insane Track Listing:

1. The Truth
2. I Am OK
3. Manifest
4. The Love Insane
5. New Life
6. Not Yet, Sister
7. Sick Tuna
8. The Fall
9. Please Rescue Me
10. Spacetime
11. The Weirdo Blues

Run Time: 48:18
Release Date: July 28, 2023
Record Label: Independent

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Album Review

Spike Polite & Sewage – ‘Punk Not Dead’ [EP] [Album Review]

Seething with primal momentum and frenzied, punchy surfaces, Spike Polite & Sewage’s ‘Punk Not Dead’ projects an intensity of defiance and insurrection.

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Spike Polite & Sewage ‘Punk Not Dead’ [EP] album artwork
Spike Polite & Sewage ‘Punk Not Dead’ [EP] album artwork

Punk Not Dead, the latest EP from Spike Polite & Sewage, is an insolent, provocative social satire, a response to the clueless decline of Western civilization, à la Oswald Spengler. Unrestrained, the EP was produced by Ted Sabety.

Made up of Spike Polite, aka Reagan Youth and Cheetah Chrome, on vocals, Michelle Shocked (bass, vocals), Antony Romero (guitar), and Beast (drums), Punk Not Dead follows on the band’s 2021 EP, PANDEMONIUM.

Comprising three tracks, Punk Not Dead opens with “What Happened to the Punk Rock,” rolling out in buzzsaw guitars riding tight, raw percussion. A single voice segues into gang-like vocals, imbuing the lyrics with enflamed indignation. This is old-school, fulminating punk rock.

Twitter is a Death Machine” delivers a short, vicious commentary on the malicious ramifications of social media platforms, specifically Twitter, now known as X. Traveling on a fast, chunky rhythm, the harmonics slice the atmosphere with edgy guitars.

Snarling, grinding guitars give the intro to the title track chaotic textures as sneering vocals infuse the lyrics with ferocious energy highlighted by ringing percussion. The outro reveals the spoken word vocals of Spike and Michelle announcing that “punk is not dead.”

Seething with primal momentum and frenzied, punchy surfaces, Punk Not Dead projects an intensity of defiance and insurrection.

Spike Polite & Sewage, photo courtesy of artists

Spike Polite & Sewage, photo courtesy of artists

Punk Not Dead Track Listing:

1. What Happened to the Punk Rock
2. Twitter is a Death Machine
3. Punk not Dead

Run Time: 3:24
Release Date: January 15, 2024
Record Label: Solid Bass Records

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Album Review

Night Wilds – ‘All That Should Have Been’ [Album Review]

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Night Wilds “Heartland” single artwork

Progressive alt-rock artist Night Wilds, the musical brainchild of Seth Micarelli, will drop his debut album, All That Should Have Been, on April 1. A darkly cathartic record, it’s an immersive concept album cloaking autobiography in fantastical fiction. (Check out our previous single review here.)

All That Should Have Been was tracked at Robert Lang Studios, London Bridge Studios, and Electrokitty Studios. The sessions boasted an audiophile’s dream of vintage gear and exceptional contributions from mastering and mixing engineer Tom Hall and longtime Heart drummer Ben Smith.

“For my whole life, I have been searching for that magic pill to make everything feel better,” shares Micarelli. “This album is about making sense of that void.”

Encompassing 17 tracks, All That Should Have Been begins with the dramatic “The Curtain,” a heated monologue delivered by the compere of a circus, rebuking the performers, focusing on a small child. His criticism travels over a creepy mosaic of sonic motifs, conjuring up a toxic milieu.

Entry points include “New Jerusalem,” opening on low-slung ethereal surfaces topped by Micarelli’s soft, poignant vocals. Slowly building and taking on elevating harmonics, the melody swells into a grandiose prog-rock performance, highlighted by radiant female harmonies, infusing the tune with gospel savors.

City Of Strangers,” a symphonic rock ballad, reveals the protagonist’s realization that he has created a self-constructed prison in his mind, a prison reflecting the events of his life in his youth. A melancholic piano and weeping strings mirror the passionate lyrics, imbuing the song with regret, yearning, and a moving appeal for human tenderness and forgiveness.

A personal favorite because of the exposure of intimate, inner feelings, “Long Way From Graceland” features an alluring folk-rock melody supporting Micarelli’s raw, sensitive vocals, drenched in musing timbres.

Just A Moment More” conjures up suggestions of Bruce Springsteen, unwrapping textures of folk-rock. Blending gleaming guitar accents, a gently sparkling piano, and a mid-tempo rhythmic flow, the tune evokes the pensive longing for more time in embracing the carefree sensation of life’s satisfying moments.

The album closes with “Where Do We Go From Here,” juxtaposing Micarelli’s haunting voice against the maniacal, cackling laugh and wild spoken words of the crazed compere from the first track. The drifting prog-rock ambiance of the melody, reminiscent of Pink Floyd, is at once delicate and elegantly haunting.

Tucked inside All That Should Have Been is an unforgettable story of working to emerge from darkness and addiction into light.

All That Should Have Been Track Listing:

1. The Curtain
2. The Show
3. Mother
4. Fear
5. New Jerusalem
6. Confusion
7. Control
8. Heartland
9. Where Do We Go From Here
10. City Of Strangers
11. A Long Way From Graceland
12. Joni
13. No Way Home
14. Tired
15. Just A Moment More
16. Lost Light
17. Where Do We Go From Here

Run Time: 60:32
Release Date: April 1, 2024
Record Label: Independent

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