By SARAH STEVENS
This week, we review recordings from Dr. G and Adam Carroll, plus a hip-hop compilation.
Doctor G – Mudcat
Doctor G (Gregg Andrews) is a transplant to these parts, but by 2005, when he released his album “Mudcat,” his musical style was at a point that it sounded native to Texas. Doctor G’s easy-going, folkish country tunes call to mind the simple two-step waltzes played out of a gazebo on balmy summer nights in Texas. One can almost feel the glow of strung lanterns and smell the leather of cowboy boots.
The CD opens with the track “Mississippi River Mud,” a steady groove of a western number in which Doctor G tells the listener that his “Grandpa was a coal-shoveling poet on my Daddy’s side.”
Songs like “Lights of San Antone” and “Don’t Come Around Me Now” bring out the sorrowful and soothing tones of the slide guitar, twining its way through the sedate melodies and adding a dimension to the songs that George Strait captured in “Amarillo By Morning.”
“Rockin” Rita” and “Fadin’ Out, Fadin’ In” bring the pace and the tone of the album up a little from the mournful Country ballads like “It’s the Music,” and give a well-rounded feel to “Mudcat.”
“Night Train From Pecos” has a haunting quality to it that wouldn”t sound out of place in something Johnny Cash created later in his career. Doctor G managed to pull off what few artists can in this album, a well-meshed tapestry that brings together the threads of different genres and sounds to form its own message and distinct style.
Adam Carroll – Far Away Blues
The quick-picking Country twang of the opening track, “Alright,” sets the tone for Adam Carroll’s release, “Far Away Blues,” as something of a meandering folk story-song in the vein of Willie Nelson or Waylon Jennings. This is only reinforced in the deceptively simple poetic lyrics on songs like “Rice Birds” and “Dream On.”
“AFL-CIO” is a stripped down ditty that features toe-tapping banjo picking and a lively beat that is overlaid by quick-witted and tongue-twisting lyrics that would be welcomed by foot-stomping and clapping at any hoe-down. John Denver would have been proud to produce any of the catchy folk pieces on this album, and tracks like “Low In The Mountains” could easily pass for a bootleg of something from his early career. “Far Away Blues” is a shining example of good old-fashioned down-home Country in its purest form. Adam Carroll takes tracks that echo that old-world style and makes them distinctly fresh and yet completely unassuming. The piano accompaniment on the closing track, “Tear Drops,” sounds distinctly modern, but the twang of the vocals and guitar render it accessible and timeless.
“All The Way” is a track that showcases Carroll’s ability to strip a song down to its essence, and make it all the more appealing for sounding casually acoustic. The easy tone of this album makes it ideal for anyone wanting to sit back and sip some lemonade on the porch and escape to a simpler time when the value of a song was not judged by its polish and media-savvy production, but by its substance and the skill of the musician performing it.
Various Artists – Collagist
Produced by mnolo, or Manuel Antonio Escobar, “Collagist” is a compilation of hip-hop, R&B, and even the occasional bit of Latin flavor from the San Antonio/Austin area. The album includes San Marcos’ own Word Association among others.
Running the gambit from ambient trance sounds overlaid by mellow flows to the dance-inspiring rhythm of Latin-backed hip-hop, “Collagist” includes different representations of the corridor scene in the music of each artist on the album. Suzanna Choffel’s song “Your War” is a mellow number that features Choffel’s silky vocals over an insistent bass line, punctuated by raw guitar riffs and haunting back-up vocals. Jamiriquai has nothing on Brandon Thomas’ contribution to this collection, “Candy,” with its psychedelic ambiance. Bringing a little taste of rock influence to the album is Amanda Lopez with her song “Return.”
The only tracks that could truly be called hip-hop, and include that tell-tale flow of words over a heavy bass beat are the Word Association with “Homegrown Music,” and “Music World” by El Robotico. Keyjitsu and DJ Techneek bring their own twisted style of techno to the table on “Cumbia No.9” with its mixed up accordion sounds and strange samples.
Anyone who has listened to and enjoyed the music from the Fugees or Portishead is sure to find something to their liking on this CD. At times dark, and a little strange, the skill that went in to the production and the performance of the music on this album is undeniable, and impressive for an album comprised only of locals. One of the best things about that is that it can be downloaded for free from www.collagerecords.com, so no trip to the store or forking money over to Itunes is necessary to enjoy “Collagist.”