Category Archives: Album Reviews

Shootin’ Man by Charles Hill Jr

If someone was handed a Charles Hill Jr Shootin’ Man vinyl record, they would be hard-pressed to locate the region or era from which it came. When you find out it’s a modern-day man from Cleveland, it will either draw you in or cause you to fold your arms and shoot a sideways glance. But this red-headed young man made a tried, tested and true traditional country and western album.

charles hill jr shootin man

Each track has classic, well crafted songwriting, from the title track Shootin’ Man to Learnin’ To Get On With My Life (Without Lovin’ You). You can hear his self-professed influences from George Jones to Willie Nelson in his style of singing and the pining for days when this was the way you made a record.  Charles has claimed his sound and bathes in the age-old sound that he clearly identifies himself with, while his band does their best to emulate the session musicians of that era, with Al Moss as a cornerstone on pedal steel, Ben Gmetro and Stelianos Simantiris (guitars), Chris Russo (drums) and Mike Allan (bass) filling out the rest of the record’s twangy sound.

My only issues with the album is that I would have liked the song order to be more aware of the flow. It starts a little slow and the gems of the album are more of a surprise when they show up than an expectation. Charles also gets a bit too timeless with his lyrics and I don’t always get the feeling he believes what he is singing; but songs like I Don’t Want to be Reminded and The Best Efforts absolutely ring true when he sings them. The faster songs, including the title track and Mouse Island are just fun, toe-tapping songs. The band respects where the music comes from over anything else, and they want this record to feel cemented in the canon of country and western music that shaped what they do.

If you want a record that helps the afternoon wind away, with life feeling a little slower, love full of pain and heartache, and your solutions involving whiskey, this album is for you.

Photo by Leia Hohenfeld.

No Way To Hide Your Tracks by Restless Habs

The Restless Habs have been playing their style of Rust Belt power punk for over five years and show no signs of taking it easy. Peter Woodward (vocals, guitar), Ken Blaze (vocals, bass) and Tim Babcock (drums) are a seasoned crew that took their years of band experience and constructed a bulletproof sonic machine. “No Way To Hide Your Tracks,” their fourth self-produced EP release, is a relentless dose of Midwest / Great Lakes rock, with hook-laden power chords and high energy that doesn’t let up.

Continue reading No Way To Hide Your Tracks by Restless Habs

Sleeping in a Spell by Shawn and Shelby

For the past six years, Shawn Brewster and Shelby Sangdahl have been leading a strong path through Cleveland’s music scene in the rock ‘n’ roll folk band Oldboy. With their new EP release “Sleeping in a Spell” Shawn and Shelby create an intimate and rustic invitation to honest and talented songwriting. Stripped away the electronics and percussion of their rock-oriented project, the back-to-basics approach of their hometown folk roots is stronger than any amplifier.

Continue reading Sleeping in a Spell by Shawn and Shelby

Tecuciztecatl by His Name Is Alive

Photo by Mara Robinson.

The new His Name Is Alive album Tecuciztecatl “is a rock opera depicting an epic struggle between identical twins, reflective in nature, and mirrored in twin science, secret language, and mythology.” That’s what they tell you in the album description.

Fourteen albums in, and you haven’t heard His Name Is Alive quite like this before. HNIA has always been hooky, but this time it’s progged out, psychedelic, and very, very riff-tacular. Wishing Ring (off Ft. Lake) with its fuzz guitar and wah solos is the closest they’ve come to rocking this hard on an official release, while Summer Left Your Heart Behind (AKA Get Your Curse, Detrola) and Can’t Always Be Loved (Ft. Lake) offered up-tempo, poppier anthems.

Continue reading Tecuciztecatl by His Name Is Alive