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: Appropriate Grammar - Lies and Stories

Album review: Appropriate Grammar - Lies and Stories

There’s some music that’s intricately intertwined with the feeling you get from a weekend whiskey binge. From the initial burn of the first drink to the last sip of the bottle, the emotions and thoughts that drive that binge are have long been subjects for great storytelling and songwriting. Appropriate Grammar’s release Lies and Stories is the musical equivalent to a weekend whiskey bender, if there was a universe where you could drink whiskey all weekend and still speak with eloquent clarity.

This 10-song set rambles on like the smartest heartbroken drunk you’ve ever met. Lyrically speaking, this is one of the better releases I’ve heard in awhile, so much so that I stopped during some songs to go back and catch a line again. With varied stories of fighting all night with a significant other ("Lover’s Quarrel") to dealing with an existential crisis ("Chosen Children"), the lyrical palette of this album reflects a wandering spirit coming to terms with the human experience. And it rocks.

Fast-paced shuffles by drummer Steve Gardels and jangling, well-placed guitar hooks by Alex Dunsford provide an inspiring platform for Nick McKenna’s cool and seemingly calculated vocal delivery. Bassist and vocalist Claire Adams adds color to many of these songs, particularly "High and Lonely," which gives the album some breathing room with a beautiful duet. In a weekend binge scenario, this is the song you’re listening to when the bottle runs dry, it’s time to go to bed, but you have no idea where you are or how to get home.

Not many bands can pull off rollicking, melodic songs that are emotional, smart and fun without coming off as being pretentious or downright aggravating, but Appropriate Grammar seems to have a formula down that works well for what they are doing, like an Old-Fashioned served with just the right amount of bitters.

-Mike Tipton

Mike is a KC native that enjoys new music and playing with his band, Molly Picture Club. He also enjoys people watching and documentaries by Ken Burns.



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