Artist of the Month

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November 2015
The Old No. 5s
The Old No. 5s’ second album, Steam, is first and foremost a blues record. But it shouldn't be pigeonholed. A self-proclaimed rock/roots trio, members Brock Alexander (guitar/lead vocals), Derek Tucker (bass/vocals), and Aaron Thomas (percussion/vocals) prove they can play the blues with the best of them, but also have the chops to bust out some serious soul, bring the funk, or simply construct a nice power pop song.
The majority of the 11 tracks are fairly straightforward blues rockers, beginning with the album's first song, “Going Nowhere.” A perfect appetizer, it gives listeners a taste of what can be heard throughout the album: solid vocals, nimble guitar, and one of the best rhythm sections you'll find on a local or national release this year. There is an undeniable Stevie Ray Vaughan influence on this and several of the other true blues tunes, including “Starting to Show,” “Easy,” and the harder rocking “Hill Country.” While few guitarists can match his licks, Alexander certainly dials in Vaughan's tone, and has plenty of salty riffs himself.
Alexander's vocal style varies. On “Easy” he is confident and powerful, channeling a cocky Jimi Hendrix. He shows off a deep soul sound during “Keep Lovin' Me Baby.” On “Little Man,” a jazzier number, he is a bit more transparent and vulnerable, much like a young John Mayer. While he is very capable at each, I couldn't help wondering which one is Alexander’s real voice.
The standout track on Steam has to be “Barn Party.” A tightly wound ball of energy, it combines ferocious slide guitar (sounding very similar in this case to a pedal steel), brilliant bass, and a shuffling beat to create foot-stomping fun. Reminiscent of Robert Randolph and the Family Band, it starts uptempo and only gets faster, ending at a blistering pace. Be sure to have your air instruments handy for this one.
The Old No. 5s display a more unique style on the album's final track, “Just the Way I Am.” While remaining true to the band's bluesy vibe, the song has a catchy pop sensibility—with an impressive jam in the middle—and should appeal to a wide audience. The trio seems to find their own identity here, something I hope to hear more of on future recordings. 
Steam is filled with truly fantastic music that taps into several genres. The songwriting and execution is top-notch. The expertise and use of each instrument, tempo changes, and drawn-out solos make it one of the most enjoyable local albums I've heard in some time. As the band continues to mature and distinguish itself, The Old No. 5s should become a force to be reckoned with—both locally and beyond.

--Brad Scott 

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Album review: Claire and the Crowded Stage - Technicolor (EP)

Album review: Claire and the Crowded Stage - Technicolor (EP)

Technicolor opens with the quirky and cleverly written “Tower of Babel,” which sets an intriguing backdrop for the EP. And two things are immediately made clear about Claire and the Crowded Stage. First, the band’s handler, Claire Adams, does not need a crowded stage to capture an audience’s attention—her voice alone will do the job. And, second, nothing about this band is superficial. Its music is a unique combination of raw emotion and refined sound. The nine-piece, coupled with Adams’s knack for songwriting and compelling vocals, radiates with talent and versatility.  

Adams’ vocals haunt the heart-wrenching “Tower of Babel” [and “Tower of Babel (minimal mix)”] as she sings: “I never lost you / You were never mine.” The strong piano, clarinet, and accordion parts make the ballad memorable and unique. The album’s title track, “Technicolor,” is perhaps the most danceable track on the EP. It carries a rolling-‘20s-esque feel—breaking out into the jitterbug certainly wouldn’t be inappropriate. “Songbird” starts slow and instrumental with an exotic sound unlike any other on the EP. About halfway through the track, however, the tempo, chords and mood change completely and the song becomes very upbeat. It’s another example of the group’s ambidextrous abilities.

Claire and the Crowded Stage is full of enduring talent that will only get better with time. This isn’t just a group of musician friends who are aimlessly plucking away on guitars or noodling around on a piano. Their sound is purposeful and polished. They weren’t thrown together by accident; this crowd was brought about to give local music a good name.
Technicolor, the group’s second EP, was released January 5. Claire and her crowded stage comprises: Claire Adams (vocals, ukulele and guitar), Katelyn Boone (bass and keys), Pete Lawless (accordion and saxaphone), Meredith McGrade (electric guitar), Katy Guillen (electric guitar), Stephanie Williams (drums), Jerod Rivers (drums), Brent Jamison (keys) and Teri Quinn (clarinet and guitar). As is par for the course of being a musician in Kansas City, several of these band members can be found hopscotching from lineup to lineup and venue to venue across the city. 
You'll be able to listen to Claire and the Crowded Stage on 90.1 KKFI next Wednesday, March 27 at 11:15 a.m. Members will be performing live on Mark Manning's weekly show, Wednesday MidDay Medley. The group will next be crowding the Coda stage on Friday, March 29 with Rev Gusto. Facebook event page here.
Here's a video from the title track, "Technicolor":
--Alex Peak

Alex Peak is a magazine designer by day and a music listener by night. To her, stumbling across great new music is even better than finding a $10 bill floating around in the laundry.


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