Turtle Bangs: ‘Mountain’

Unsuspecting listeners who aren’t familiar with Turtle Bangs’ music might get the impression they are a country act upon first glance at the cover art of their new album Mountain. However, that notion quickly disintegrates as the ear-splitting fuzz of electric guitar rips into the heavy rock sound of the opening track, “Desert Stone,” which continues relentlessly throughout the set’s entire duration.

Guitarist and vocalist Greg Stephen and drummer Casey Carter formed Turtle Bangs in the fall of 2008 while both were residents at Murfreesboro’s notorious Country House. The local duo released their second full-length recording earlier this year, which is a follow-up to their debut, Give Me Your Daughter.

Co-produced with Hank Parker Pruett, the album incorporates a profusion of post-grunge, alternative and garage rock elements slightly tempered with hints of punk to create a powerful and beautifully chaotic musical statement. Stephen’s raw and gritty vocal style is at times reminiscent of Kings of Leon’s Caleb Followill, as he delivers each song with reckless abandon that never eases up during the 12 tracks.

“Lost in West Virginia/roaming in the cold/mountains overwhelming/waiting for the calm to come,” Stephen intimately reveals in the closing track “Mountain Song.” However, listeners should be forewarned that calm is not something easily heard anywhere on this strikingly frenzied indie rock release.

While plenty of passion is evident, these songs are presented in a rough and unpolished, almost demo-like quality that at times becomes monotonous. This fact could hinder some listeners from completing the entire musical journey the duo may have ultimately envisioned. Also, the somewhat less-than-spectacular songwriting contained here only hints at the duo’s promise that is anticipated after hearing the initial tracks.

Although Turtle Bangs’ sound may be an acquired taste, the band certainly deserves credit for creating a bold and aggressive album, which is sure to permeate astute rock fans’ ears and give them something to sink their teeth into.

Copyright ©2010 The Murfreesboro Pulse

The Great Affairs: ‘Ricky Took the Wheels’

Ricky Took The Wheels..

Nashville based pop/rock band The Great Affairs’ latest album, Ricky took the wheels.., is a great affair indeed. This newly released collection of well-crafted songs picks up where their 2009 eponymous debut left off, yet raises the musical bar significantly.

Lead vocalist Denny Smith penned all 12 tracks contained in this instantly likeable and highly memorable piece of musical ear candy, which was produced by the band and recorded by Michael Saint-Leon at his Antioch recording studio The Switchyard. The album sounds instantaneously fresh and familiar, as it includes ever-so-subtle hints of Tom Petty and Bon Jovi, which are most apparent in the songs, “Bastard Son” and “Last Good Memory.”

The first track, “Feels Like Home,” instantly demands the audience’s attention with its highly addictive chorus, slide guitar, exquisite background harmonies and catchy melody. This is a perfect choice to open with, as it sets the mood for the rest of the album and gives the listener fair warning that great things lie ahead. “In this moment/we’re as young as we’ll ever be/and this feels like home to me,” sings Smith, which sounds as if he is welcoming new and returning fans alike to this musical jaunt.

The amps are cranked up on the outstanding “Inside Your Head,” which sums up this album perfectly as it slowly works its magic inside the listener’s head before transitioning to the stripped down “My Apologies.” This somber yet beautiful ballad’s acoustic-based delivery suits Smith’s delicate and heartfelt lyrics perfectly, without becoming overly sentimental, and sits nicely between two rockers. This balance of hard and soft continues throughout this set’s fine assortment of songs.

The appropriately titled final track, “Last Good Memory,” provides the perfect ending as the pace alternates between fast and slow, which allows the intensity to build throughout its five-minute duration. “Everything makes me anxious in this dead end town/sometimes I wish the kids would burn it down/I can watch my last good memory fade/and leave me here with just this mess we made,” confesses Smith before bringing the album to a fitting close.

Ultimately, it’s the sum of all the parts that make this highly enjoyable album a success. From the inspired lyrics to the excellent guitar work, Ricky took the wheels.. is guaranteed to leave listeners satisfied and anticipating what’s to come from this highly promising band. This praiseworthy recording sounds like a major label deal should be waiting just around the corner. If this album isn’t perfect, then it’s damn close.

Recommended tracks to download: all of them.

Copyright ©2010 The Murfreesboro Pulse

Keith Urban: ‘Get Closer’

Keith Urban has certainly managed to carve a niche for himself in today’s current country music climate with his own brand of country music. On his latest release, Get Closer, he continues to solidify his foothold and remains firmly ensconced in the contemporary country-pop genre.

This latest offering, co-produced by Dan Huff and Urban himself, picks up right where his 2009 release, Defying Gravity, left off. Listeners will already be familiar with the album’s first track and lead-off single, “Put You In A Song,” as it has been a staple on country radio since September. The hit song was co-penned by Urban, Sarah Buxton and fellow Aussie Jedd Hughes. This bouncy summertime romp stills sounds fresh and inviting even in the sub-freezing temperatures of winter, which is a testament to the craftsmanship of Urban’s consistently solid songwriting.

Perfectly following the first hit is the radio friendly, “You Gonna Fly,” which continues in the same vein of the up-tempo, feel good tunes Urban is well known for serving up. Although this is one of the few titles presented here not written by Urban himself, with lyrics such as “hop in this truck and run through the red lights/roll down the windows with the radio loud/come on turn it up yeah,” it sounds as if he could have.

The energetic “Long Hot Summer,” written by Urban with Richard Marx, makes a great companion piece to the two tracks previously mentioned and easily ranks right up there with some of Urban’s best hits. This song sounds as if it can barely wait to burn up the airwaves next summer.

This album also has some stellar ballads, such as “All For You,” and the gorgeous “Right On Back To You,” which includes thunderstorm sound effects that add the perfect touch to this first rate, cozy sounding love song.

Get Closer is another solid and winning collection that Keith Urban fans are sure to find highly enjoyable. The only downside to the set is its shortness in length. Clocking in at just over 33 minutes with only eight tracks, it seems slightly unfinished. Although brief, the excellent quality of the material included here more than makes up for the short playing time. For listeners who are disturbed by this fact, it is highly recommended to seek out the deluxe version, which contains three bonus tracks and four live recordings, and is readily available exclusively at Target stores.

Flea Market Hustlers: ‘Free Demo For Sale’

Flea Market Hustlers has been sharing its brand of country-flavored bluegrass with Murfreesboro audiences and satisfying their fans’ musical fix with their weekly shows for the past four years. By playing local venues such as The Blue Rooster and Mellow Mushroom, the band has built a local following with their unique and inventive interpretations of cover songs as well as their own originals.

The five-piece group delivers a brief but accurate sample of what they have to offer during their live performances on their seven-track EP, Free Demo For Sale. This self-produced mini-album was recorded at The Chicken Ranch in Bradyville and features three of the band’s originals along with four diverse cover tunes, which are all delivered in its distinctive jam-grass style.

The group slams through the brief set beginning with “Drive,” which was written by lead singer David Preston. This standout track includes an incredibly catchy chorus that seeps into the listener’s long-term memory and refuses to let go. The collection also includes such interesting choices as Black Sabbath’s “Sweet Leaf,” which includes a very nice saxophone solo, and late country-folk artist Townes Van Zandt’s “Waiting Around to Die.”

The Hustlers are even bold enough to attempt a remake of Culture Club’s “Karma Chameleon” with mixed success. While the song choice would seem to be a likely fit, the chorus suffers from the rapid-fire tempo, although the excellent harmonica playing included here works brilliantly.

Throughout this oddly eclectic and disparate mix of material, band member John Furbush’s exquisite mandolin playing is especially noteworthy. Even if country or bluegrass is not your usual cup of tea, this collection is worth checking out for the highly enjoyable take on Queen’s “Fat Bottomed Girls.” Whether consciously deciding to save this pure delight for last was intentional or not, Flea Market Hustlers deserve a big “two thumbs up” for choosing to include this number. Their excellent reworking and masterful delivery of this familiar rock song was nothing short of genius.

Copyright ©2010 The Murfreesboro Pulse

Coach-A-Palooza Rocks The ‘Boro

The third annual Coach-A-Palooza was held at Coach’s Grill on Saturday, Oct. 2. The eight-hour musical event was an all-ages, family friendly show that began outside at 6 p.m. and lasted until 2 a.m. With an admission price of only $7 per person, this live music extravaganza is a great and inexpensive way to spend an evening.

The live festivities kicked off with the country-rock stylings of the Barefoot Renegades, whose repertoire included songs from Alabama to Georgia Satellites and Luke Bryan. The hour-long set also included a smattering of the band’s own originals delivered with bravado from barefooted lead singer Wes Cook. The small but intimate crowd seemed to enjoy the band’s sound, which could be described as a combination of the Zac Brown Band and Hootie and the Blowfish. The band’s playful onstage antics included comical banter about out-of-tune guitars and vocals due to the weather, before stating they had to head out of town for another gig.

Barefoot (1)

(The Barefoot Renegades)

After a brief stage re-set, the evening continued with a strong set of rocking cover tunes provided by Octane Jane. “Let’s get ready to party,” exclaimed lead singer Angel Nash before breaking into their brand of high energy rock. Nash’s powerful lead vocals ripped through such favorites as Joan Jett’s “I Hate Myself for Loving You” and Ozzy Osbourne’s “Crazy Train,” as well as newer songs by Kings of Leon and Maroon 5. The band switched things up a bit when their lead guitarist delivered a rousing version of Weezer’s “Say It Ain’t So” complete with powerfully aggressive vocals of which Rivers Cuomo himself would be envious. Octane Jane’s set ended with AC/DC’s “You Shook Me All Night Long,” which kept the audience on its feet and singing along.

The music-filled night progressed with another local favorite, The Compromise. The band’s set was comprised of a mix of original and cover songs, which bring to mind a harder edged Gin Blossoms. “Rock ‘n’ roll is what we’re playing,” declared lead singer Brandon Bell before tearing into Foo Fighter’s “Learning to Fly.” By the time The Compromise took the stage, the crowd had been well primed for good music, and judging from their response, the audience was thoroughly enjoying what they were hearing.

Compromise (1)

(The Compromise)

Upon completion of The Compromise’s performance, the event moved inside Coach’s Grill for the final band of the night, JT and the Funky Bunch. The funky band’s party music provided the perfect ending for the show. The audience responded enthusiastically to their funked-up white soul, as well as their talent to blend humor and music. JT and his band’s smooth groovin’ style seemed as if it had been handpicked to bring the evening full of music and fun to a close.

Coach-A-Palooza took place on a crisp, cool, breezy night, and all in attendance seemed to have a lot of fun. The crown ranged in age from late teens to late 50-somethings. The event had the feel of an old-fashioned block party combined with a giant karaoke sing-a-long. Audience member, Tina Vaughn from Smyrna, said she heard about the event from a friend on Facebook. A self-proclaimed music lover, Vaughn confessed, “I love music. I came to hear all of the bands.” When asked if she planned to attend next year, Vaughn responded, “Absolutely. This is awesome. I’m going to make this an annual thing.” Coach’s Grill is located at 127 S.E. Broad St.

Copyright ©2010 The Murfreesboro Pulse

Tetsuo: ‘These Crystals Don’t Burn’

These Crystals Don't Burn

Hardcore rockers Tetsuo announce their arrival into the music scene loud and proud on their debut album These Crystals Don’t Burn. The post-punk psychedelic sounds of the local 4-piece band slam through 13 tracks with fierce and reckless abandon akin to the Beastie Boys possessed by the Sex Pistols. Listeners should be forewarned: this is not an album for the faint at heart. It is a jarring, rough and raucous ride that starts with the opening track and doesn’t ease up until the final note of the closing instrumental.

Kicking things off is the frantic thrashing of “Banshee Mansion,” which cuts through the musical landscape like a sharp, jagged knife complete with angry lyrics and crunchy power chords. Tetsuo seem to subscribe to the do-it-yourself aesthetic of punk rock combined with a generous helping of drugs, sex and rock ‘n’ roll included in the mix to create a style of their own.

“I don’t give a damn about this life/I ain’t no Kurt Cobain/but I can’t complain,” the lead singer proclaims in the set’s most hook laden, accessible track, “Smoking Cigarettes with Famous People.”

They also include plenty of local shout outs in “Approaching Nashville,” which contains such lyrics such as “she puts out for the Christiana/Antioch/Harding Place boys . . . she’s too busy in Smyrna, Tennessee,” making sure the listener is well aware of the band’s regional locality.

Two of the more notable and interesting selections found here are “Horse Girl” and “God’s Announcement.” The almost danceable “Horse Girl” clocks in at just over six minutes during its multiple tempo changes and is quite possibly the most original and inventive of the songs presented here. The latter, “God’s Announcement,” includes an infectious chant-like chorus that is repeated just enough times to ensure the listener has no other choice but to surrender and shout out “guard your heart” again and again.

Although this is clearly an album aimed at a specific audience with a taste for aggressive, hard rock, it is truly a bombastic aural assault that will satiate fans of that genre. What the band members may lack in musicianship, they more than make up for with plenty of attitude and swagger, not to mention an ample amount of explicit, riotous lyrics and out-of-tune guitars thrown in just for good measure.

Copyright ©2010 The Murfreesboro Pulse

Darius Rucker: ‘Charleston, SC 1966’

Darius Rucker certainly had the odds stacked against him when beginning the recording process for his second country album, Charleston, SC 1966. The follow-up to his platinum country debut, 2008’s Learn To Live, had a lot to live up to. After amassing four hit singles, three of which went all the way to number one, pulling off another successful country album may have seemed daunting to most artists. Fortunately, it seems Rucker has managed to do just that by capturing lightning in a bottle for the second time.

The new album, which is aptly named in the same fashion as Rucker’s musical idol Radney Foster’s Del Rio, TX 1959, more than lives up to its predecessor’s accomplishments. Beginning with the lead off track, “This,” Rucker sings about how all the events of his life, no matter how big or small, have played a significant role in where his life has taken him. The song is indicative of the album’s 13 songs, which includes great lyrics underscored with healthy doses of mandolin, banjo, fiddle and steel guitar.

Included here is the current hit, “Come Back Song,” a country radio staple during the summer, in which he sings, “I’m the backside of a mule.” Although Rucker has never kept his love of country music a secret, he seems more than comfortable in the genre with this release. The aforementioned tune is followed by the upbeat and catchy, “Might Get Lucky,” which talks about a husband and wife trying to find a way to spend some ‘special alone time together’ and sounds as if it is ready to leap off the record and onto country radio playlists.

“Whiskey and You,” is not just another drinking song, but instead it is a beautiful and heartfelt ballad. “I keep coming back to whiskey and you,” Rucker admits in this album highlight, which is every bit as good if not better than anything included on his previous album.

One of the particularly striking standouts included here is, “Southern State of Mind,” which fits perfectly with the album’s theme. “No changing who I am / No matter what state I’m in / I’m in a southern state of mind / Back home in Carolina,” Rucker confesses.

“The sky starts spinning when our heads get above the clouds,” Rucker sings in “We All Fall Down.” This track is sure to be a treat for longtime fans of the artist, since it bares the most resemblance to one of Hootie and the Blowfish’s best ballads.

Additional album highlights are “I Don’t Care” and “She’s Beautiful.” The former is a humorous duet with label mate Brad Paisley and is delivered in Paisley’s often playful lyrical style. This upbeat tune about late night partying will surely be in heavy rotation in the not so distant future in country bars and radio alike. Followed by the mid-tempo, “She’s Beautiful,” which may be Rucker’s best vocal performance to date, this song has hit written all over it. Even with lyrics such as, “I’ll love her ‘til the day I die / I’m one lucky man,” Rucker manages to pull this modern love song off successfully, without sounding sappy.

The album closes with the fitting, “In A Big Way,” which returns to the album’s hometown theme. “I need some front porch rocking / Back road walking / Some biscuits cooking in the oven,” sings Rucker gleefully. He continues on to say, “I need some hanging ‘round my little town in a big way,” which ends things on a perfect note.

Charleston, SC 1966 is full of potential hits that will more than satisfy old and new fans alike. It seems his entire career has led up to the making of this album. Frank Rogers’ winning production style more than suits the material presented here, all of which was co-written by Rucker, along with some of the best writers Nashville has to offer. This is more than just a solid effort, it truly is a great country record.

Awake! Awake!: ‘Bittersweet Horizons’

Bittersweet Horizon

Hailing from Murfreesboro, indie band Awake! Awake! returns to the music scene with its newest release titled Bittersweet Horizons. This latest set, which follows the 2007 debut We’ve Been Strangers, combines their own contemporary approach with elements reminiscent of  ’80s new wave. The band manages to successfully pull off a unique style that simultaneously sounds current and nostalgic. There is no evidence of any sophomore slump to be found here.

Bittersweet Horizons begins with the brief and dream-like instrumental, “Colors,” and promptly fades into the fast driving opener, “Distance,” which more than signals the start of something great. “The words all change, scenery remains the same/go nowhere ‘til you learn, start listening,” insists lead singer David Johnson. This is good advice to all who may be listening because this is an album music fans will not just want to hear. They will want to invest the time required to immerse themselves into its entirety.

“I can’t hear you because my ears are ringing,” Johnson powerfully declares in the guitar-heavy rock of “Firing Squad.” While it may not be enough to make all ears ring, its chorus is so catchy it is sure to become permanently etched inside the audience’s consciousness with just one listen.

As the album continues, each song flows seamlessly into the next. “True North” is but one of the many high points and is full of highly emotive vocals drenched in an endless sea of droning guitar. Another standout track is “Sight,” which sounds like something that should be heard in heavy rotation on alternative radio’s current modern rock playlists.

Finally, “Red” adds the perfect finishing touch and includes just the right amount of synths and guitar power riffs. Clocking in at just over five minutes, the album’s closing track sounds like the sun setting on the horizon, if such a thing could be heard in music.

Bittersweet Horizons is a complete album of well crafted pop songs that is sure to provide a very enjoyable listening experience for fans of modern rock with a slightly retro sound. Obviously recorded with the intent to be listened to in its entirety, it includes a plethora of catchy choruses and memorable melodies within its top-notch songwriting and production. This locally produced example of pure pop/rock perfection deserves some national attention and recognition.

Key tracks not to be missed include “Sight,” “True North” and “Distance.”

Copyright ©2010 The Murfreesboro Pulse

Kris Bell: ‘Turn It On, Turn It Up’

Turn It on Turn It Up

Rock is alive and well and can be found in abundance on Kris Bell’s new album, Turn It On, Turn It Up. The singer/songwriter/guitarist, originally from San Diego, moved to Nashville in 2005 and was soon hired as American Idol runner-up Bo Bice’s lead guitar player. Now Bell is focusing his attention on his solo career with his recently released new album. True to its title, the record is a mix of straight ahead, full throttle rock anthems and power ballads. All 11 tracks included here were written and co-produced by Bell.

Starting things off with the amps cranked up is “Livin’ for Tomorrow,” which sets the tone for the rest of the album. “I’m livin’ for tomorrow/I’m not lookin’ back on yesterday/And I’m movin’ forward today,” Bell declares on the fast-paced opening song. From this moment on, listeners are given ample warning to expect plenty of catchy hooks, sing-a-long choruses and copious guitar solos. Throughout the record, Bell mixes modern, alternative and Southern rock to create his own American rock style.

While the majority of the album is filled with up-tempo, all-out rockers, a handful of slower power ballads are sprinkled throughout as well, including, “I Know The Sun Will Call.” Enhanced with a sparse but beautiful string arrangement and its catchy chorus, the Creed-like song is one of the albums’ finest and most memorable moments.

Another highlight is “Destined,” which is the album’s only stripped-down acoustic number. Here, Bell is accompanied only by acoustic guitar and strings as he delivers the heartfelt lyrics that sound as if he is reading a letter to his parents about his son and all he is destined to become. This somber ballad, which suffers from being, at times, too sentimental, slows things down drastically, but is a welcome reprieve from the tension found in the rest of the album’s heavy and hard-driving rock.

Throughout the album, time, faith, love and loss are recurring themes in the lyrics. And while the album doesn’t explore any territory that hasn’t already been covered extensively in music, it is exactly what the title suggests, which is a no-frills rock record. No more and no less. That being said, it is a solid effort by a talented musician and composer that provides a most enjoyable listening experience for fans of rock music. So put it on, crank it up loud and sing along.

Copyright ©2010 The Murfreesboro Pulse

A Little Ditty about Jack and Diane

jackanddiane2

Local tunesmiths Diane and Jack Untz, better known by Murfreesboro music aficionados as the hosts of Jack and Diane’s Music Circle, celebrate music and the craft of songwriting every Wednesday night at downtown’s Center for the Arts. Their show follows a format similar to VH-1’s “Storytellers” in which featured artists not only perform, but discuss their songs and writing techniques, making it more than just a typical concert experience.

Their story began when their paths crossed in Atlanta while Diane was auditioning guitar players for her road band in the early stages of her singing and songwriting career. Not having much luck, Diane was given Jack’s phone number by a mutual friend who thought they would work well together, although she was warned not to date him. Needless to say, Diane was blown away by Jack’s musical abilities and their ten-year personal and professional relationship was born. The couple bonded over their similar tastes in music, which include Bonnie Raitt, The Eagles, Jackson Browne and Linda Ronstadt. They eventually married after Jack jokingly said, “she was going to have to marry me if she wanted to keep me,” and they have remained together since.

Diane is a vocalist and songwriter, while Jack plays guitar, mandolin, lap steel, Dobro and banjo. After Diane was offered a recording contract in Nashville by a major label, the duo decided it was time to make their move and pursue their dream. Unfortunately, the timing wasn’t right and after massive Music Row layoffs and budget cuts, the record deal ultimately fell through. However, all was not lost because this experience afforded Jack and Diane the opportunity to make a lot of important friendships within Music City’s elite circle of superb songwriters and local artists. These friends, who make up a sizable talent pool, are frequently called upon to perform during Jack and Diane’s weekly talent showcase.

In between their Wednesday night hosting and performing duties, Jack and Diane stay busy following their own musical aspirations. They released their own album, Play For Me, in January, which is a superb collection of their songs performed in a stripped down acoustic setting.

When asked about the recording process, Diane explained, “We took a very unconventional approach. We recorded everything live in the studio in one day. We wanted to duplicate what we do live. We didn’t have time to think about it. I don’t like to over think everything.” she said.

They also filmed a music video for the album’s title track, which was shot nearby at a friend’s house and included a lot of friends and fans as extras. “I hated every minute of it,” Jack confessed of the music video experience. “We wanted it to look real and very authentic and I think we achieved that. We had a lot of fun,” Diane added. Jack later admitted he was happy with the way it turned out and ultimately ended up having a good time.

The video is an excellent extension of the duo’s laid back yet emotional style, which is a blend of easy listening and country. The couple’s distinctive sound is prominently displayed in their songs that have been captured on their album. When listening to their music, it isn’t obvious that writing songs is such hard work for the team. While elaborating on their songwriting process, Diane revealed she usually writes the lyrics first and Jack then composes the music. They both compared the experience to “birthing a baby,” and admitted “the real work is communicating musical ideas to each other.”

As the discussion segued to the current state of the music business, they both agreed that it is an exciting time to be an artist. They went on to explain how the Internet has opened up endless opportunities and unlimited avenues for artists to share their music with an audience. “People are no longer being deprived of great music. It’s hard to find something real nowadays. The music has to be good. It has to be able to stand on its own,” Diane explained.

When asked what advice they would give other artists and songwriters Jack said, “Listen, listen and listen. Listen carefully and you will learn what’s good and what’s not.” Diane offered these words of wisdom, “There’s no elevator to success, take the stairs. There is no short cut. Stay true to yourself. Don’t rush it. The journey is the destination. It all counts. Every step of the process is necessary.”

Ultimately, Jack and Diane would like to see their show evolve into Murfreesboro’s own modern day Opry, focusing on songwriters and becoming a real tourist destination. They are also contemplating the possibility of future guitar and songwriting workshops. “We want to educate the public on great artists, singers and songwriters,” Diane declared.

Jack and Diane’s love and passion for music is clear and certainly explains their motivation for creating a weekly showcase. They saw a real need for a place where local talent could perform and truly be appreciated and shown the respect they deserve. What they have created is a place where artists and music lovers can gather and share an exciting and unique experience with each other. People are even encouraged to enjoy the casual table picnic setting by bringing their own food and beverages to the show or taking advantage of appetizing meals supplied by The Chef Place.

Jack and Diane’s Music Circle is one of Murfreesboro’s unique treasures and is a great way to spend an incredible evening with music-loving friends.

Copyright ©2010 The Murfreesboro Pulse