Sunday, December 4, 2016

Blues Blast Magazine Album Review: Blueheart Revival – Stone Feathers

Hello!

This CD review was originally published in the April 16, 2015 edition of Blues Blast Magazine. Be sure to check out the rest of the magazine at www.bluesblastmagazine.com

Blueheart Revival – Stone Feathers

Self release

www.blueheartrevival.com

9 tracks / 46:03

It is always fun when a band goes outside the box and adds tangible elements from other types of music to an established genre, and blues is no exception. Blueheart Revival does this well, combining their blend of blues, funk, soul and rock with solid musicianship to create their own niche in the music world.

Blueheart Revival is a Washington, D.C. based band that brings a lot of original material to their listeners, as their debut LP, Stone Feathers, has eight original tracks and only one cover tune. This five-piece band formed in 2012, put out an EP in 2013, and is fronted by Bobby Thompson on lead vocals and guitar, with local hero Tommy Lepson on keys, Colin Thompson (no relation) on guitar, Kurt Kratch on bass, and Gary Crockett behind the drum kit.

Despite their almost Yankee origins, there is a southern rock feel to the first track, Sonny Boy Williamson’s “Early in the Morning.” There is no shortage of hearty Hammond B3 from Lepson, and the two Thompsons lay down some righteous guitar riffs, including masterful slide work. For this lone cover tune on the album, they reworked the original into a more modern tune and did it just right, making it one of the standout tracks on the album. It is always cool to get off to a strong start!

The second song, “On Her Wings Again,” is also solid and things gets funky with wah on the rhythm guitar and a neat dry sound to Crockett’s drums. The backline holds this song together with a tough groove of bass and drums under Bobby Thompson’s growly vocals. A cool element on this track is the guest percussion work by Leon Mobley of Ben Harper’s Innocent Criminals. If you are not familiar with his work you should check out his bio, as he is a fascinating cat who has a diverse musical background.

This quintet can also cut loose with a blues rock jam or two, as found in “Until We Shine” which wins the heaviest guitar riff of the day award. This sounds like the kind of song that was refined from a Tuesday night blues jam where everything went right. “Setting Sun” has a similar feel, but this time with a little more classic blues influence combined with the hard rocking beat, and terrific vocal harmonies between Thompson and Crockett.

Lepson takes the helm on “Consider Me,” bringing his hearty vocals and strong organ work to the party. This song has more of a rhythm and blues vibe, and this more laid-back feel allows the meaning of the words to come forward, and shows the mature songwriting skills of Blueheart Revival. This also goes for the sole acoustic track on the disc, “Get it by the Grace,” which has Delta and gospel influences, plus a bigger than expected sound thanks to the stereo effect of the two acoustic guitars and the rich vocal harmonies.

This release finishes off with the two most polished tracks on Stone Feathers, and they are also the longest songs, which is all right because they are both pretty awesome. The title track is a radio-friendly with a catchy guitar melody and the story of a girl who is hard to connect with. And the closer, “Morning Stranger” has a crazy slow funk-rock AOR mood that takes advantage of every vintage effect that they did not find a place for anywhere else on the record (and that is a good thing).

Stone Feathers is a fun album with no two songs that sound alike, and it certainly never gets boring. Blueheart Revival put together a strong debut, and they are not sitting still. They are putting together a gig schedule, and are releasing a live EP with three tracks that were recorded in November at the their CD release show at the IOTA Club & Cafe in Arlington, Virginia. If this album is any indicator of what their live show is like, the EP should be a good buy too!

Mahalo!

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Press Release from IK Multimedia for MODO BASS!

Howdy!

Check out this press release from IK Multimedia – I am stoked to get a chenace to try out this new bass modeling software!

November 30, 2016 - IK Multimedia, the pioneer in analog effects modeling, is pleased to announce the release of MODO BASS®, the new breakthrough physical modeling technology that brings a completely new level of realism and playability to the world of virtual bass instruments. MODO BASS is a customizable physically modeled virtual bass instrument that recreates the sound of the electric bass and how it's played in real time - from all of the physical instrument components, the human technique of how the instrument is played, to the entire sound signal chain with effects and amplifiers.

Unlike traditional sample-based virtual instruments, MODO BASS utilizes modal synthesis technology and an ultra-optimized sound engine to model each string as a nonlinear resonator - the string's acoustic behavior is determined by its physical parameters as well as by the interaction of the string with fretboard, body and pick-ups of the instrument. The action of the player is then modeled as a nonlinear physical interaction with specific areas on the string surface. Then using IK's cutting edge analog modeling expertise, the amp and effects rig of the electric bass is added to the sound chain. This gives MODO BASS the ability to create hyper-realistic sound in real time.



Every electric bass sound imaginable


MODO BASS contains a collection of 12 physically modeled iconic electric basses that span the history of bass sound in recorded music - more bass models than available in most other virtual instruments. Models include "60s P-Bass" based on an Alder body 60s era Fender Precision Bass®, "70's P-Bass" based on an Ash body Fender Precision Bass®, "70's J-Bass" based on an Alder body Fender Jazz Bass®; "Modern J-Bass" based on an Ash body Fender Jazz Bass®, "Devil Bass" based on Gibson® EB-0; "Bass Man 5" based on Music Man® StingRay 5-string; "Rick n' Bass" based on Rickenbacker® 4003; "Studio Bass" based on Yamaha® RB5; "Violin Bass" based on a Hofner® Violin Bass, "Thunder Bass" based on a Gibson® Thunderbird, "Japan Bass" based on an Ibanez® Soundgear, and "Flame Bass" based on Warwick® Streamer.



Every detail of each bass has been meticulously analyzed and modeled to capture their true sonic character; the shape and type, the wood used for the body and neck construction, the hardware components, the original onboard electronics and controls - every aspect and detail has been recreated to provide the highest degree of authenticity of the original instrument. But the sounds available with MODO BASS extend far beyond the 12 modeled basses - with the available customization features, users can craft virtually every electric bass sound imaginable. MODO BASS is able to produce an unmatched and unlimited palette of bass sounds because everything can be customized.



Pluck, Slap or Pick - modeled playing styles


Once the bass has been selected, players can choose from 3 playing styles - pluck, slap or pick - and control parameters of each style and how they influence the sound. Adjustments can be made to the force applied to the strings, the position of the hand, the direction of the stroke, the fingers used to play the instrument and how the strings are approached, the impact of the thumb slap and the finger pull on the string and even the thickness of the pick and style of its attack. Every aspect of playing style has been modeled as a non-linear interaction with the strings to provide a dynamic, ever-changing sound output.



String Customization


IK painstakingly studied and recreated all of the factors that affect string tone and performance. Players can choose the number of strings on the bass, the construction type and material of the strings (round or flat wound), the gauge and age, plus the physical action height of above the fretboard. Each of these options contributes its own character to the output of the bass and introduces realism never before heard in a virtual instrument.



Custom pickup configuration


There are 20 iconic bass pickups from which to choose that can be freely interchanged and added to the instrument - up to 2 pickups per bass. Users can change the type of pickups used, neck or bridge single coil or humbuckers, and their physical location under the strings can be moved freely for unlimited playing and tonal variations - a feature virtually impossible in the physical world. MODO BASS also gives players the ability to mix in the sound of an under-bridge piezo pickup for added resonance and top end. Switching from Passive to Active electronics option also enables a 3-band parametric EQ to fine-tune the pickup output tone.



Customize FX and Amp choices


With MODO BASS, players have full control over the post-instrument signal path as well and get 7 bass stomp boxes and two classic bass amplifiers derived from IK's AmpliTube flagship software. Stomp box effects include an Octaver, Distortion, Chorus, Compressor, Delay, Envelope Filter or Graphic EQ. Each stomp box gives players full control over the effect applied to the signal, parameter adjustment and overall output volume into the next effect. Also available is a classic all-tube amplifier and 1x15 cab, or a solid-state model with a 4x10 cab.



Expressive control in real time

MODO BASS provides MIDI control of critical parameters that can be automated in real time. With the MIDI Control section, players control and adjust the application of vibrato, the playing style, the application of Mute technique and the amount of slide technique applied while playing. The frequency of the vibrato, the amount of the bend, plus the amount of slide and detach noise while playing can all be controlled in real time on the fly.



Keyswitching in MODO BASS allows players to create amazingly real techniques like slides and percussive ghost notes. Users can switch on the fly between chord mode and note mode, the type of stroke used for playing, the fingers used and the method of playing, which provides the ability to completely customize the sound in real time.



Pricing and availability


MODO BASS is available now from the IK Multimedia online store for a special introductory price of $/€149.99* until December 4, 2016. After that date, MODO BASS will be $/€299.99* and a crossgrade will be available for $/€199.99 ** to qualified users.



*All prices excluding taxes.

**Any previous purchase of an IK Multimedia product with a value of $/€99.99 or more qualifies for crossgrade pricing.



For more information, please visit:
www.modobass.com

To see MODO BASS in action, watch the videos:

www.modobass.com/video

Stay tuned for my review!

Mahalo!

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Acoustic G10 Lead Series Guitar Amplifier Review

Aloha!

Acoustic brand amplifiers have been around since the late 1960s when Steve Marks and his dad founded the company from their shop on Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles, California. They made huge amps that were popular with major artists of the time, and have sort of plodded along since then, and they currently sell mostly low-end amps that are not a whole lot different than everything else on the market. Today we are looking at their G10 Lead Series amplifier, the smallest model in a new line-up that extends up to the G120 DSP (which is a 120-watt amp with four 12-inch speakers).

The Acoustic G10 is described by the company as being“ideal for solo practice or small band rehearsal.” I guess this is mostly true: it is fine for solo practice, and would work for a rehearsal – if you put a microphone in front of it and put it through a larger amplifier. This is a budget model 10-watt solid-state amp with an 8-inch speaker, so you just are not going to be able to move that much air and have it sound nice. Not that this is a bad unit, but you have to know your limitations.

This is a very portable unit, measuring 14’ by 7″ by 14″, and weighing just a touch over 14 pounds. The G10 is very simple to use, and it has two switchable channels that both sound pretty good. The lead channel provides volume and gain, and the rhythm channel has a volume control. They both share a 3-band EQ with a mid-range shift switch. Also on the control panel is a single input, the channel switch, a 1/8-inch aux input, and a 1/8-inch headphone out. This makes for a pretty awesome practice amp set-up. That is about it, except for the power switch on the front and the IEC power socket on the back. There is no footswitch or jack for channel switching, no effects, and no aux speaker out.

Build quality on this thing is good. The vinyl is neatly applied, and the wiring is tidy. The pots have a rather cheap feel to them, but this is not surprising as this is a cheap amp. There is a bit of hiss to it when it is on without the guitar being played, but it is not really noticeable once you start playing.

The sound of this Acoustic amp is pretty solid, too. The clean channel is warm sounding until you crank a lot of volume through it, then it breaks up in a really bad way. The lead channel has a very useable gain, and sounds really awesome with my Les Paul. This thing is more than good enough for the casual bedroom or garage player.

The Acoustic Lead Series G10 is a solid practice amplifier, and it is worth the money but I do recommend that you shop around a bit. The list price on these is $129.99 (really?) with a street price of $59.99, and I saw stacks of them at Guitar Center on Black Friday for $40. You are not really going to get a decent practice amp for much less than that…

Mahalo!

Monday, November 28, 2016

Blues Blast Magazine Album Review: Aaron Burton – All Night Long

Good day!

This CD review was originally published in the April 9, 2015 edition of Blues Blast Magazine. Be sure to check out the rest of the magazine at www.bluesblastmagazine.com

Aaron Burton – All Night Long

Self Release

www.aaronburton.net

14 tracks / 51:48

As blues has evolved over time it has strayed pretty far from its original formula, but country and folk blues usually stays pretty true to the original sources of the genre. Aaron Burton’s self-released sixth album, Up All Night, falls into this latter category, and delivers a solid collection of roots and blues music with a Lone Star influence.

Aaron Burton hails from the Dallas / Fort Worth area, and he has shared his pleasant drawl and fine stringed-instrument prowess around the United States and all the way to the United Kingdom, where he is gaining a respectable collection of new fans. On Up All Night he takes care of the vocals, guitar, mandolin and dulcimer, and he his joined by “Stompin” Bill Johnston on the harp and Dick Cordes behind the drum kit. There are fourteen self-penned tracks on this release, with a couple of neat covers worked into the set.

The title track is up first, and it is readily apparent that Burton has put together a power country blues trio with a big sound. “All Night Long” starts with a dulcimer ostinato and quickly adds slide guitar and mandolin. Johnston’s harmonica takes an active role, filling in the parts that would normally be covered by a second guitar or keyboard. When you add Cordes’ hard-hitting drums into the mix, the effect is quite huge.

Burton’s guitar work is very good, but he does not show off as he plays only the notes and chords that are really necessary. This makes the CD more accessible to a larger audience and provides a more laid-back vibe. His vocals are rich and appropriately growly at times – perfect for the style of blues he is selling.

Aaron is a good storyteller and a capable songwriter as shown by “The Day Big Tex Caught Fire,” a tune that uses the classic blues lyrical style and his electric guitar to recount the loss of the famed Texas State Fair icon back in 2012. He also does a stunning job of capturing the listener’s attention and emotion with “Hard Luck Child,” a more modern blues tune that tells the sorry tale of innocent folks who never had a shot at happiness in their lives.

Despite the heaviness of this last tune, Burton maintains an upbeat mood for much of the album, with light-hearted songs about things that most folks can relate to. And those things are the highs and lows of relationships with the opposite sex. A great example of this is the good sense of humor he maintains as he tries to cut a deal with his ex in “Don’t Talk Bad About Me” (and I sure won’t talk bad about you).

The covers on Up All Night are pretty cool, and they include Charlie Patton‘s “Pony Blues” and Blind Willie McTell’s 1928 standard, “Statesboro Blues.” They both end up being a lot closer to the originals than the countless other versions out there, so if you really love the Canned Heat or Allman Brothers takes on these, you might be a bit let down. But, as they are, they are refreshingly different than what we have come to expect and they fit much better into the overall theme of this release.

The set closes out with a bonus track, “I’m Your Santa Claus,” which might be a fun inclusion for your next holiday party, and it is one last chance to hear some awesome harp work from Stompin’ Bill. Well, it should probably be an adult party, as there are plenty of double entendres that are set to the tune of John Brim’s “Ice Cream Man” (famously covered on Van Halen’s debut album).

Aaron Burton is a fine musician and a mature songwriter, and Up All Night is his best work since he first entered the studio ten years ago. If you are a fan of roots music or country blues, this CD will be just what you are looking for. Also, if you are near Dallas anytime soon, be sure to check out his website as he has a heavy gigging schedule in the DFW metro area, including a regular Tuesday night Delta Blues Jam at The Goat in East Dallas.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

1987 Aria Pro II XRB-2A Electric Bass Review

Hi there!

Today we are looking at a bass that is pretty darned close to one that I bought new back when I was in college. This is a 1987 Aria Pro II XRB-2A bass, finished in transparent red over a flamed maple top and back. These models were made from 1987 to 1989, and were some of the last Aria instruments that were made in Japan before production moved to Korea.

If you remember the mid to late 1980s, there was a lot of metal music floating around, and everybody knew that if you wanted to bang heads, you needed a pointy headstock on your guitar. This bass delivers exactly that and more: a Precision Bass body, a Jazz Bass neck, P-J active pickups, AND a pointy headstock. Boom!

I am pretty sure that all of the XRB basses came with alder bodies, but this one is unique and I have never seen one with the figured maple top and back before. But I figure the body is still alder underneath, as it weighs the same as other ones that I have owned - around 8 ¾ pounds. The body is nicely contoured without losing the pleasantly traditional Fender shape.

The body is loaded up with a set of Aria P and J pickups that are powered by a 9-volt preamp. The controls include a master volume control (that can actually be clicked to an off position), a tone knob, and a blend knob with a center detent. The blend knob seems like overkill as there is also a 3-way pickup selector switch. The other toggle switch changes the electronics from active mode to passive mode, though there is no real benefit to this as the tone is about the same in either setting, though it would be handy if the pre-amp battery happens to go dead at the most inopportune time. Maybe the pre-amp is crapping out on me…

My favorite part of this Aria bass is the neck, which is eerily similar to the one on the Fender Jazz Bass Specials. The profile is very similar and easy to play, with a thin jazz profile and a 1/5-inch wide nut. There is clear glossy poly sprayed on the back of the maple neck, and the rosewood fretboard has 21 frets with tiny dot markers (for some reason the marker for the 21st is missing). There are no string trees, as that pointy headstock is tilted back 14 degrees to hold the proper string tension across the nut.

The condition of this XRB-2A bass is amazing, and there is almost no wear and the only blemish is a little cracking in the veneer around the output jack. The bass plays well, but it sounds kind of meh. I like the idea of this bass a lot (and part of that is probably sentimental value) so this one might be a candidate for a pickup change, and I am thinking of going with a set of EMGs.

I will let you all know what happens!

Mahalo!

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Blues Blast Magazine Album Review: The Hep Cat Boo Daddies – Down Right Nasty

Good day!

This CD review was originally published in the March 12, 2015 edition of Blues Blast Magazine. Be sure to check out the rest of the magazine at www.bluesblastmagazine.com

The Hep Cat Boo Daddies – Down Right Nasty, A Tribute to Sean “Evil” Gerovitz

Mosher Street Records

www.parklaneprod.com

11 tracks / 55:30

If you are not from South Florida you may never have heard of them, but back in the day the Hep Cat Boo Daddies played an intriguing blend of blues, rockabilly and surf music. Though the band went their separate ways in 2010, they recently put together a tribute album dedicated to their bass player who had passed away in 2013. Down Right Nasty, a Tribute to Sean “Evil” Gerovitz is a fine way to remember this departed soul.

The Hep Cat Boo Daddies came about after the demise of Sean Gerovitz and Joel DaSilva’s old psychobilly band, Underbelly. Based out of the Fort Lauderdale area, the band played almost every week at the Poorhouse Bar as a trio with DaSilva on vocals and guitar, Gerovitz on bass, and Randy Blitz on drums. The mostly played live, but they also put out two CDs and a DVD in the mid-2000s. This new album is made up of material culled from their set at the 2004 Fort Lauderdale Riverwalk Blues Fest and their 2005 session at Sun Studios in Memphis, Tennessee. In the final mix for this disc, most of the songs are from the live show.

Their set kicks off with the original studio recording of “The Fatboy Shake,” an instrumental that starts with a Bo Diddley beat and then transitions into a hard-rocking surf tune. From there they change directions and play a live version of John Lee Hooker’s “Boom Boom” with rockabilly-style vocals. On both of these songs, DaSilva shows great prowess on the guitar, so it is not too much of a stretch as they transition in a “You,” a 6-minute AOR jam that could have come from a mid-70s Robin Trower album. This trio rocks!

After this, the rest of Down Right Nasty is all live material. Covers include a hard rocking version of Lazy Lester’s “Sugar Coated Love” (with lounge singer vocals), a slightly sloppy version of Jimi Hendrix’s “Voodoo Child,” and the rockabilly fun of Lil’ Ed & the Blues Imperials’ “Chicken, Gravy and Biscuits.” They threw Alec Rice Miller’s “I’m Just a Playboy” into the mix, and it ends up sounding like an energetic drum solo with a 12-bar blues song laid over the top of it. There is also Ron Holden and the Thunderbirds’ 1940 song, “My Babe” with blistering guitar work, punk rock drums and a jamming bass interlude. This is the standout track of the album and it really captures what the band was all about.

Their original tunes are very solidly written, including the more conventional blues of “Evil Woman,” a nine-minute live track. Guest artist Joe Saint brings his classy organ work to “Beale St. Shuffle” which provides a fun break from the rest of the guitar-centered playlist. Lastly, they chose to wrap things up with their usual show closer, “Double Surf,” a high-energy surf rock instrumental.

As you can see, there is a little something for everybody in this CD. So, if you only listen to classic blues material, the Hep Cat Boo Daddies’ Down Right Nasty, a Tribute to Sean “Evil” Gerovitz will surely expand your horizons. If you give it a chance you might even want to track down their previous albums, Long Time Comin’ and hotrodsexgod, as they were a seriously tight and creative trio who gave it their all in their live show and in the studio. Check it out for yourself to see if it is your cup of tea!

Gonzalo Bergara – Zalos Blues | Album Review

Gonzalo Bergara – Zalo’s Blues

Self Release

www.gonzalobergara.com

12 tracks / 37:26

Gonzalo Bergara’s latest album, Zalo’s Blues, was really not what I was expecting to hear from him. You see, this Argentinian guitarist and bandleader made a name for himself as an acoustic Gypsy Jazz guitarist, and he is probably one of the best players of this genre in the world. He has received much respect for this work from the glossy guitar magazines, but who would have thought that he would do an electric blues album, and actually do all of the singing too?

Well, Gonzalo plugged in, stepped up to the microphone, and it all worked out well! Bergara’s guitar skills translated well to the electric, and Zalo’s Blues is a killer album. Gonzalo wrote eleven of the dozen tracks on this disc, and he was joined in the studio by bassist Mariano D’Andrea and drummer Maximiliano Bergara. Are they related? Who knows?

The first song in the trio’s set is “Drawback,” an uptempo instrumental that is sort of a jazzy shuffle. Gonzalo sets the stage here by starting out strong, and he proves that he has no problems at all with his electric guitar technique. Bergara burns through quite a few instrumentals on this disc, including the Jeff Beck-esque “Dirty Socks,” the funky jazz of “Been Runnin’,” the heavy blues rock of “Levi,” and the pretty ballad, “Ines.” On all of these songs, Mariano and Maximiliano do a stout job of laying down the groove and they are as tight of a backline as anyone could hope to play with.

Gonzalo also sings on most of the tracks, and his voice is good, though maybe a bit limited in range. Bergara’s guitar covers a lot of genres here, and one of my favorite tunes is “Gonna Go” a wild piece of country roadhouse music that provides Zalo with the opportunity to do his best Albert Lee impression. He does not disappoint the listener, as he is one mean guitar-picking machine. Another standout piece is “Woosh, ” a song that was recorded in Los Angeles in 2003, and this hard-rocking song features Vince Bilbro on bass and Michael Partlow on drums. This song has a complex build, and it takes more than one listen to hear everything that is going on – this is amazing stuff!

The lone cover is Jimmy Reed’s “You Don't Have to Go,” and after sampling Reed’s intro, the band provides an extra-heavy take on this classic tune from 1954. Gonzalo does a fabulous job of howling out the distorted vocals as Maximiliano beats his snare drum to death -- these fellows really know how to rock…

Zalo’s Blues is not a very long album, and before 40 minutes have gone by it is all over. I think it is a real winner and I am not alone: none other than Charlie Baty and Junior Watson both have high praise for Gonzalo Bergara’s work. Anybody that loves guitar music will dig this one, so why don't you check it out for yourself and let me know what you think?