New goodies from Foxtrot Zulu, Toledo Skye, more
by Bob Gulla
Now that the water's warming up, it's nice to have some cool tunes
to stay balanced. And while it's a good thing to hit record store racks in
search of the Next Big Thing, it's equally excellent to pick up a few local
releases. Not only will you be assisting local musicians in their quest for
gainful employment, you'll find out how darn good some of this stuff is. So
what if it doesn't make it to your radio?
Foxtrot Zulu: Live . . . (Phoenix)
When a band is on, the power of its performance can lift an audience off its
feet. Good songs sound great, great playing sounds excellent, and the whole
thing mingles with audience adrenaline in creating a spectacular connection of
mood and sound. It doesn't matter if you're Springsteen or Spring Heeled Jack,
international or a strictly saloon. The key is making that connection.
One of the area's best live bands, Foxtrot Zulu tries hard to create that kind
of experience for its audience on Live . . ., their dandy new concert
document that's without a doubt the next best thing to being there. Recorded
over two nights in January at the Ocean Mist down in Matunuck, the monstrous,
75-minute jag finds the band at their casual, instrumental best, as they sink
their teeth into nine of their kickin'est show tunes.
When they're at the top of their game, Foxtrot Zulu closes in on the trippy
Latinismo of early '70s (aka "prime era") Santana. It seems that whenever FZ
jams expand into something meaty, as they do on the dazzling, 16-minute closer
"Equador" and the exhilarating, nine-plus minute "Raygay Rocky," the band leans
some on sizzling Cuban percussion and horn elements. At the very least they
sound like a fleeter version of the Dave Matthews Band, with the same elite
chops but a slightly more aggressive jam element.
Though there's not much of him to be heard across the record, singer Nate
Edmunds makes his presence felt on rhythm guitar. He and lead guitarist Neal
Jones, along with bassist Brad Haas give the whole shebang a cushiony
foundation, upon which the rest of the band goes to town, stomping all over it
with horns, Paul Miller's busy bongos, even special guest Eric Neff's gritty
violin. Those of you who have seen Foxtrot Zulu and have been swept away by
their melodic frenetics, you're gonna wanna have this disc lying around as both
a souvenir and a cure for what ails ya. If you've never seen the septet, you
might wanna get off the couch first to check 'em out. Chances are you'll want
more once that's done.
Toledo Skye (Sunset Venue Music)
Guitarist Craig Roberts and Fletcher Christian of Toledo Skye have got a good
thing going and it shows. Their eponymous debut album is an ebullient piece of
pretty pop, full of jangly guitars, husky tenor-singing, and solid melodies.
There's enough power on songs like the rousing "Going Home" and "Lead You On"
to keep things fresh and interesting; while more contemplative tunes like the
affectionate "Heroes" (where Christian sounds amazingly like Axl Rose!) and the
chilling "So Happy" help to give Toledo Skye a vibrant spectrum of
The record would have benefitted from a more professional drum sound. Band
member Kevin Ferias is a perfectly capable drummer, but the band's own
production doesn't flatter and the percussion chair sits poorly in the mix. But
that's a resolvable technical glitch and not a more difficult stylistic one.
Toledo Skye is a welcome work by a talented and enthusiastic new entry
in the area's modern rock genus.
John Crawlin' Snake Mac: End o' Time Blues (Laughing Mountain
Relocated to Providence recently from New York City, John Maciel comes as an
excellent addition to Rhode Island's cozy but essential blues scene. Mac's a
traditionalist, more or less, in the way a guy like Paul Geremia is, only Mac's
sights are set slightly more into the future. While he'll fingerpick a storm
ala Robert Johnson, Lightnin' Hopkins, even Tampa Red, he'll also explore some
vaguely electric alleyways. On his latest album, End o' Time Blues, Mac
first and foremost proves himself to be reverent of those pillars of the blues
art form. Songs like the closing, slide-happy "Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow"
and the ripping "Wrong House for My Bed" show that Mac's as reverent as they
come, while the dizzying "The Great Disappearing Law" and the stomping "Chicken
in a Wolfhouse" feature Mac fronting a dynamic quartet. Whichever way you slice
it, End o' Time Blues is a potent work, straddling the line between past
and future, standard and aspiring classic. After all, isn't that where the
blues should be?
The Agents: 401 (Radical Records)
From the first few toots of that spicy horn section on the Agents' new record
401, you know you're in for quite the listening party. From the opening
"Long Time" through quick crispies like "Sally Brown" and "Good Foot," the
record is a tropical riot of new ska and reggae. Guitarist and singer Jason
Dalomba leads the way with a tactile kind of neo-Jamaican dub poetry, while
Dawn Hamel and Frank Moniz, among others fill the horn charts with piquant
playing. The recording's sonics are high and crisp, with just enough of Jay
Medeiros' bass and Kris Branco's shussing drum tempo to keep things moving
Playing ska in this day and age may not provide the Agents with the
combination to the bank safe, but it still -- whether it's trendy or not --
makes for a night of slick, sweaty fun. Kudos to them for sticking with the
kind of music that makes them -- and us -- happy.
South of Providence
Part late period Gun Club, part rockabilly, part Uncle Tupelo-style roots
rock, South of Providence -- featuring Brian P. on busy bass, Brandon Lee on
drums and Zach D. on guitars and vocals -- is the kind of record you wouldn't
expect to come out of Providence, actually seven miles South of Providence. But
here you have it, and it's a rockin' delight, full of bumptious charm and
rat-a-tat-tat drumming, Zach's shambling vocals, and a bubbling rhythmic
One of the coolest things about South of Providence is its brevity.
With a full nine cuts, it clocks in at an ultra-lean 15 minutes, meaning most
of the band's songs get in, make a potent point, and get out in a matter of a
minute or two. Songs like "High School Sentimental" and "A Strange Place" work
their brief magic with terse arrangements and savvy lyrical twists, while a
cover of Johnny Cash's "Mean Eyed Cat" fits in nicely thank you astride the
band's own work. Good to the last drop, too: the band's final cut, the woozy
"10," is the best on the album.
WANDERING EYE. Tonight (6/29) at AS220 sounds like a cool evening for
hipsters. am*be*thang is an ambient/electronic/acoustic/sound/ image
thing starring Basque, Cathode Ray Tube, Carrier 81,
One Among Many, and Ogre B. Doors open at 8:30, the performance
at 9:30. Admission is $5.
Bob Gulla can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.