Mike Killeen’s latest album ‘Ghost’ is filled with nine fresh, heartfelt, instantly-likeable songs. There is no haunting specter lurking here. Mike says “The title is not directly linked to the songs, even though many of them are about memories. ‘Ghost’ just seemed like an interesting word. I certainly thought of it as looking forward, not backwards – like something that always will be, not simply something that used to be.”
DISCLAIMER: At AMGV we have not done any true record reviews. Good, objective record reviewing is a rare skill, not unlike that of a spirits reviewer who can tell me there are hints of crème brulee, bacon bits, and peach cobbler with a peppercorn finish when all I taste is bourbon that I either like or do not like so much.
However, we like to make readers aware of new art from the fine folks we have featured in the Grapevine, and if we cannot offer up donnish descriptors or grandiose expositions, we can at least give you some of our impressions.
In August, we profiled Papa Jack Couch as he was preparing a listening party for his new album Witness Tree (click here for story). The album is out now, and the record release party is October 12 at 8:30 P.M. at The Alamo, 19 W Court Square, in Newnan.
“The Real Thing” a new single by My Rebel Episode is available today, March 22, on all streaming platforms. There is also a lyric video for it here. It is a fresh, catchy song straightforwardly structured with an infectious “doot doo doo doot” punctuating punchy verses, then a bridge, a quick instrumental break, some more “doot’s” and then out – all of it packed into a compact one minute and forty seconds. It is all good rock and roll and no filler. Guitarist, lead vocalist, and primary songwriter Johnny Powell remarks, “I put three verses into it, and I can’t believe it was still so short!”
Fans of the prominent Atlanta-based band, The Bitteroots, will have the opportunity today to listen to fresh new studio material. The new EP, Derailer, is the band’s first recorded material since 2014’s Under the Big Sky and promises to present the sound evolution of a band soon celebrating its 11th birthday.
Since its inception in 2014, A Slow Boat to China has become well known for its original hard rock compositions, recorded with tasteful production flourishes. Their sound is at once familiar yet difficult to discern specific references, although band members cite favorite groups including Janes Addiction, Kings X, Alice In Chains, Failure, Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, Queens of the Stone Age, and Dead Sara. They just rock.
From the beginning, Jimi Broderick (vocals), Zen Hardy (bass), and Matt Hanson (guitars/vocals) gelled in their performing as if the band had a decades-long existence – readily translating its studio productions to stage, demonstrating prowess with both their instruments and in managing processing effects. Their dexterity in playing many styles shines. Guitarist Matt Hanson is as comfortable with a soft acoustic intro as he is unleashing a hail fire of guitar bursts. Together, the band has shown a sweet spot for songs with a hard rocking midtempo like those of some of the 90’s best alternative and Seattle bands.
The band’s new single, “Mirrors”, sounds both familiar and full of renewed energy, part of which can be credited to their new drummer, Mike Froedge. Froedge is well known not only as a drummer in Black Label Society, DoubleDrive, and The Dreaded Marco, but also as a studio owner and award-winning producer with a list of credits too long and too varied to name here. Actually, Mike has been a part of the Slow Boat family from its beginning. The first band rehearsal was in Mike’s former studio, and he recorded, produced and mixed their first two records. When their drum slot opened, it was a natural and obvious fit for Mike to join.
Mike has always had in influence on the band’s sound, but his joining in the playing has opened up some new sounds. Matt explains, “A lot of the songs off the new EP were written pre-Froedge, but “Mirrors” was written quickly in a rehearsal room with Mike, and I think the energy is apparent.” Indeed “Mirrors” sounds like Matt now has a “lead drummer” to match him on lead guitar. Matt starts off the song with a fast, indelible guitar hook. When the band kicks in seconds later, the drums make the sound seem not just bigger, but deceptively faster, kicking up listeners’ heart rates a few notches.
“Mirrors” is the lead-off single from an upcoming album currently in production and scheduled to be released in August. Like the single, all the hallmarks of Slow Boat’s sound are evident in the new record; however, there is also a fresh approach. Matt says, “While this record will sound like a natural extension of our last record, there is a lot more range in the new songs. ‘Mirrors’ wasn’t actually our first pick for a single, but once we got into the studio, it made sense. We are really going for it with this one, and our fans will hear what they expect, but we are also finding the shades of gray on both sides of the spectrum. The record will sound familiar, but prepare to be surprised!”
Continuing to push themselves creatively, both collectively and individually, has influenced their ideas for this EP. “The new EP is a conceptual record, written as a story. Writing around the story really pushed us as band. We are taking our time with this one, and I think that will be very apparent when the cohesion of songs comes together in one record.”
A Slow Boat To China debuted “Mirrors”at a single release show at Smith’s Olde Bar on March 1, but is now giving priority to recording. “We have some exciting things in the works, but for now, we are committing ourselves to being in the studio to bring this EP to life. We have a monomaniacal focus on creating a unique experience for the listener.”
Matt’s enthusiasm for the band’s next stage is contagious. “We are excited about the direction of the band and continue to stay focused on honing our craft and getting better at what we do. The energy in this creative process has been something I’ve never experienced, and something that I will never forget. It is really special to make music with this band.”
“Mirrors” is available through all major streaming services.
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