Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Retro review: Trouble Is... / Kenny Wayne Shepherd

One incredibly cool thing about my job at Springfield Missouri's Gillioz Theatre: I get to be a part of a variety of concerts, and am exposed to artists who would never be on my radar otherwise.

The most recent example of this is the Kenny Wayne Shepherd Band. KWS and the guys played the Gillioz on June 30th. I had heard of Shepherd, but didn't know any of his music. Then Mike heard "Blue on Black" on the radio, and we had an, "Ohhhh, that guy!" moment.

A photo posted by Carrie Winchel (@mrswrocks) on

"Blue on Black" is the only song I was able to catch during the show. I have since become pretty obsessed with it. I don't have a poetic explanation to justify why I am wildly, passionately (inappropriately?) in love with this song. I just am:

So, of course, if I'm going to check out some of Shepherd's music, I'll hit up the album featuring my new favorite song, 1997's Trouble Is.... This was Kenny Wayne Shepherd's second album, and his first with vocalist Noah Hunt. This guy can sing. There's a warmth to Hunt's voice that compliments Shepherd's guitar playing just right.

Complete with necessary '90's dude hairstyle: the middle part

Trouble Is... is an upbeat album, for the most part. I love that. The opener, "Slow Ride" is a nice blues rocker, with Hunt's vocal melody matching the guitar. "True Lies" keeps the attitude going. Then I listen to "Blue on Black" at least twice on every spin.

There isn't a song I would suggest skipping on Trouble Is... Highlights include: "(Long) Gone," "Somehow, Somewhere, Someway," check out the guitar on "Nothing to do with Love," and groove along with the instrumental title track closing out the album. 

Blues is a genre I've always respected, but haven't spent much time exploring. Kenny Wayne Shepherd's music is the perfect blend of blues, pop, and rock. Shepherd's guitar playing is expressive and interesting, and Noah Hunt is easily becoming one of my favorite vocalists.

I'm looking forward to digging into more of KWSB's music, and discovering other artists who are doing the same thing.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Want to get into metal? Some of my favorite albums to get you started...

My gateway drug to heavy metal was '80's Glam/Hair metal. I grew up listening to country music, so the catchy melodies and traditional arrangements were not too much of a leap. Poison's The Best of: 20 Years of Rock, Motley Crue's Dr. Feelgood, and some random compilation CD I got at a truck stop during a road trip were my first '80's rock favorites.

Thanks, Bret!

Even before that, I was always fascinated with darker, heavier music. Kids who are told Metallica is evil are bound to turn on MTV late at night to see what all the fuss is about.

MTV used to play music videos. By rock bands. Seriously.

In my mid-twenties, I fell in love with a metal-loving dude who took me to a Lamb of God concert on one of our first dates. While it all sounded like a bunch of noise to me, I took a step back and started to find heavier artists I do enjoy.

Randy Blythe-style vocals will never be my favorite. But much like I forced myself to like beer because it's cheaper than expensive girly drinks, I taught myself to tune my ear to the music. Now I can find the groove, really listen to the guitar, and appreciate the skill it takes to play good metal, even when I'm not digging the vocal style. This genre is an acquired taste, but if you have a need to feel that pounding in your chest and throw those horns, it's worth the search for bands you love.

As someone who wasn't raised on heavy music, I know what it's like to be on the outside looking in, completely overwhelmed with no clue where to start.

Fear not, wannabe headbanger! If you're looking to get into metal, Here are some albums I recommend for beginners:

Anthrax / Worship Music

You'll soon figure out your favorite type of metal. Don't get hung up on trying to be cool. Just listen to a variety of styles until you find what you like. My bag: hard, riff-heavy music paired with melodic singing. That's exactly what you'll find with Anthrax's Worship Music. The album starts with the triple punch of "Earth on Hell," "Devil You Know," and "Fight 'Em Til You Can't." Anthemic moments in "The Giant," "Crawl," and "In the End" make Worship Music an album you can sing along with.

Like it? Want more? Check out Anthrax's Anthrology: No Hit Wonders (1985-1991) This double album has most of the band's hits. Being well-versed in these tunes will have you looking like a hardcore fan, should you see Anthrax in concert. Which you should.

Black Sabbath / Paranoid

Paranoid features songs you've probably heard: the powerful and epic "War Pigs," the unrelenting title track, and "Iron Man." "Electric Funeral" and "Fairies Wear Boots" bring a fun, bluesy/swing vibe, while "Planet Caravan" is creepy and beautiful. Be sure to take the time to zone in on Tony Iommi's killer guitar work, and appreciate that he pretty much invented metal.

Like it? Want more? Check out Black Sabbath's self-titled debut album for a piece of metal history.

Black Sabbath / Heaven and Hell

Yes, there are two Black Sabbath albums on my list. On Heaven and Hell, you'll hear a very different voice over those signature riffs. The one and only Ronnie James Dio fronted Sabbath for this one. The album opener, "Neon Knights," is an absolutely killer track. I love the melodies in the verses. The groovy "Lady Evil" and "Walk Away" are also standouts.

Like it? Want more? Check out Dio's The Very Beast of Dio. If you love RJD, this album brings you 17 tracks featuring the most legendary voice in rock. My favorite tunes: "Holy Diver," "Straight Through the Heart," "Mystery," and "Hungry for Heaven." Just try to get past the '80's synthesizers.

Metallica / ...And Justice for All or Death Magnetic

Remember what I said about finding what you like and not worrying about being cool? It's not cool to like any Metallica album released after ...And Justice For All.  It's my husband's favorite from the biggest metal band in the universe. He told me that's the one I should pick for this list. If you are serious about being a metal head, you should listen to each of Metallica's first four albums. (So in addition to Justice, add Kill 'Em All, Master of Puppets--my favorite early Metallica album, and Ride the Lightning to your list)

If the production on those early albums is too rough for you, I recommend Metallica's latest studio release, 2008's Death Magnetic. This does not make me cool. But, damn, I love this album. Every song has that hard-driving quality of Metallica's earlier stuff. It's a bit more polished, though, and should be easier to take for those who don't worship at the throne of Hetfield and Hammett.

Like it? Want more? Check out Pantera's Vulgar Display of Power.

You should listen to Pantera anyway, because Dimebag Darrell. This particular album is another Mr. W. recommendation. Mike says it's Pantera's best. I'm not going to argue. Dime's gift of writing brutal, driving riffs that stay catchy and groovy was something special. Rest in Peace.

Iron Maiden / The Number of the Beast

This is the first album Maiden recorded with the amazing Bruce Dickinson, so it's a great one to check out. Driving, layered guitars, and Dickinson's dramatic delivery are the big selling points for The Number of the Beast. However, those things, along with the fact many of Maiden's songs clock in at 6+ minutes are reasons some people can't get into the band. You'll have to decide for yourself. "The Prisoner," "Number of the Beast," "Run to the Hills," and the epic "Hallowed Be Thy Name" are must-listen tracks on Number of the Beast.

Like it? Want more? Check out Seventh Son of a Seventh Son, or any of Maiden's 172 live albums.

This barely scratches the surface of the giant, complicated world of hard rock and heavy metal. If you're really into becoming a metal nerd, check out Banger Films' Metal Evolution miniseries.

I am by no means a metal expert...so, fellow fans, what did I miss?

Rock on,

Mrs. W.