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Artist of the Month
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September 2014
Katy Guillen & the Girls
"Katy Guillen & the Girls
"
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Normally when I discover a band for the first time, I listen to their album first, then go see them live. In the case of Katy Guillen & The Girls’ new release, the situation's been reversed. I saw them live a couple of times before the album was released, so I was interested to hear if the record was going to capture the ferocity of their live performances. I have to confess that my hearing is not in the best of shape, and, due to a poor sound mix at what shall be an unnamed Lawrence venue, I never got to hear the words or even the melodies properly live at the most recent concert I attended. But upon hearing the self-titled LP, it’s nice to hear that Guillen can write literate lyrics to these songs I've heard played out.
 
The album opener, "Don't Get Bitter," hearkens back to the sound and feel of the Beatles' "Taxman," with Claire Adams' bass introducing the song. It's short, catchy, and lasts exactly as long as it should. If there were a single release off this album, this would be it.
 
This record is no-frills. It's the band pretty much as you hear them live, with the mix capturing a live in-studio sound. What strikes me listening to this record is that Katy and the Girls are not strictly a blues band. There's certainly an infusion of the blues in what they do, but, to my ears, they hearken back to some of the late ‘60s-early ‘70s hard rock bands like Mountain and Free, but with better lyrics and songs. I also hear some White Stripes in there somewhere. The melodies and harmonies are accentuated and they help blend with the powerful playing.
 
Katy Guillen, Claire Adams, and Stephanie Williams fill up a lot of space in these songs. It's obvious they are all very well in sync and have that great intuitive blend that comes from playing lots of live gigs together. I also like the changes in some of the songs, which go in directions you don't expect, like "Woke Up In Spain," which switches tempo adroitly.
 
The absolute masterpiece of this album is the last song, “Earth Angel.” It's the longest tune on the album, but it doesn't feel long. It starts out with Guillen’s dirty-sounding guitar intro, reminiscent of Jimi Hendrix's "Little Wing," and builds in intensity as it moves along. Guillen takes one hell of a solo during this song. It's obvious from hearing this record that she is an excellent guitarist but never overplays during the songs. But when the song calls for a lengthy solo, like "Earth Angel," sparks fly. The rest of the band is equally as adept. Adams’ bass lines are nimble and fit right in place with Williams’ active drum work. It's a pleasure to hear a band that obviously loves to play together rolling through these songs. The album’s producer (Duane Trower at Weights & Measures Soundlab) captures the clarity of the music as well as the power of a live performance.
 

--Barry Lee

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Show review: Sonic Spectrum Ramones Tribute, 10.28.12

Show review: Sonic Spectrum Ramones Tribute, 10.28.12

Four bands came together to pay tribute to legendary punk band, the Ramones, as a part of Sonic Spectrum’s tribute series at recordBar. For all intents and purposes, the Ramones saved rock n' roll. When they released their self-titled debut in 1976, the radio was jammed pack with long-winded keyboard solos, disco beats, and mini-operas. The Ramones went back to the original blueprint, designed by the early rock n' rollers and doo-wop groups of the ‘50s. Only the Ramones' songs were faster, louder, tougher, and weirder; punk was born. Their sound continues to influence countless bands to this day, four of which showed up that night.

If there was a secondary theme to the night, it was that covering these three-chord simplistic songs looks much easier than it actually is to pull off. Nearly each band recognized that on stage. The first band, UFT!, kicked off the show right with the shouts of "Hey! Ho! Let's go!" in "Blitzkrieg Bop,” quite possibly the most recognizable tune in the Ramones catalog. Bassist Steve Tulipana shared a funny story about meeting the artist behind the iconic Ramones logo, and his surprise on how getting prepared for the show had been. They played other Ramones classics such as "I Wanna Be Sedated" and "Rock N' Roll High School.”

Next, Rockets to Russia took the stage (members of Bleachbloodz, The Uncouth!, Hobo Zero, Appropriate Grammar, The Bad Ideas). Consisting of the largest group of the night, the five-member band tore through songs about as fast as the Ramones would perform them live. Songs like "Glad to See You Go" and "Cretin Hop" were accompanied by boundless energy that seemed to run back and forth on both sides of the stage. Two songs in, vocalist Mitch Clark convincingly told the crowd he'd have to slow down for a song or two or else he was bound to have a heart attack on stage. Still, the band continued through their set this way.

Gene Kreamerz and the Pussycats (members of The Quivers, The Latenight Callers, Drew Black & Dirty Electric, Deco Auto) played their songs closer to how the Ramones sounded on the albums. It's not at the breakneck speed of their live performances, but still animated enough for a crowd to bounce around to. Highlights included "(Do You Remember) Rock N' Roll Radio?" and a personal favorite, "Danny Says,” the true ballad of the night (surprisingly, the Ramones were great at writing those, too).

True evidence of the Ramones influence in even today's world came when Radkey finished the night off. The band consists of three brothers, all of whom were born well after the Ramones had their heyday. The spirit, energy, and rock n' roll the Ramones championed during their career came through the band. Highlights included the seasonally appropriate "Pet Cemetery" and campy "Somebody Put Something in My Drink.” The band ended their set with the anti-political song "Bonzo Goes to Bitburg", a song most fans would consider to be a favorite. The night was a great tribute to the Ramones, and in turn, a great tribute to rock n' roll.

All photos by Todd Zimmer. Please do not use without permission.

--Travis Stull  

Travis is a technical writer who loves rock n' roll. Give him a hug sometime.

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