Saturday, June 4, 2016

In Layman Terms – Tangled | Album Review

In Layman Terms – Tangled

Self Release

9 tracks / 37:00

In Layman Terms’ debut album, Tangled, is a righteous collection of blues, funk, and rock, with grooving beats no matter where you look. The sister/brother duo of Logan and Cole Layman have been playing music together for their whole lives and are both amazing musicians who perform with the ease presence of hardened road veterans with decades under their belts.

On this project, Logan handled the lead vocals and bass, and Cole played the guitar parts; joining them at Lowder Sound and Clay Garden Studios (both in Virginia) was a talented group of musicians that helped them achieve a lot of different moods and sounds. These folks included the producer, Ron Lowder Jr. on drums, and Brian Kloppenburg behind the keyboards. There are a few other folks that pitched in, as you will see later on. This album has nine tracks with seven originals, and only two covers: the Laymans wrote five of the originals, and Holly Montgomery penned the other two.

The title track is the first song in their set, and they brought in a full horn that includes Ron Lowder Sr., Rick Thomasson, Mike Wholley, and Russ Robertson. “Tangled” has a huge blues and funk sound that starts things off on a strong note. The up-tempo funk is provided by Kloppenburg’s organ and Cole’s syncopated guitar rhythms, and Lowder Jr. is one hell of a drummer. Logan’s voice is a husky alto with a great range and emotion, and her phrasing and enunciation are both spot on. It would be hard to top this one, but as you will hear, the rest of the album is just as good.

This is followed up by one of the standout tracks from the album, “Fake it ‘til I Make It,” a song Logan and Cole adopted from a poem their mother wrote about depression. I have seen this song performed as an acoustic duo, but this version is more of a soulful blues rocker with plenty of B3 from Kloppenburg. Logan nails the vocals and does a marvelous job with a walking bass line, and Cole tears off a killer extended guitar solo break. This could be one of their signature songs as it defines what the duo is all about. This song is a cool contrast to their fun and sassy rocker, ”Karma,” which has cool doubled guitar/vocal parts, and shows that there is a lot of range in what this band is capable of.

The two covers are ambitious, and the Laymans pull them off with no problems at all. They take a run at Howlin’ Wolf’s “Smokestack Lightning,” which is cool to hear with a woman singing the lead. Logan does a righteous job of howling out the edgy lyrics, and Cole is a whiz at nailing the acoustic on this bare-bones track. Virginia Beach harpman Jack Campbell adds a super-distorted (yet tasteful) solo to hone the edge of an already intense song.

The other re-do closes out the set, and it takes a lot of guts to walk in Janis Joplin’s shoes, but Logan rises to the occasion and proceeds to make “Move Over” her own. The doubled vocal/guitar intro reveals an almost psychic bond between a sister and brother, and sets the tone for a real barnburner of a tune. Cole’s guitar swaps smoking solos with Lowder Sr.’s tenor sax, providing a strong finish to a solid album.

As I wrote earlier, Logan and Cole sound like they have decades of experience on stage, but that was intentionally misleading as I think their music stands on its own with no caveats about who they are. You see, this duo is still in their teenage years, but Tangled would be an awesome production no matter how old the artists are. But they are not just a studio phenomenon, and I recommend that you head over to their website to check out their videos and gig schedule, as they are a killer live act too!

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