The NBT Review 96

Nora Jane Struthers – Nora Jane Struthers (Blue Pig Music)

Review by NBT’s Martin Smit

She leads us into this gentle disturbance, riding in on sweet delicate fiddle, without complication she stretches this thriller into something haunting, and though the fear is tangible, though the dread shifts just around the melody, this murder ballad is simply beautiful, a brave opening, a daring introduction.

This album takes place in the ‘other’ in the timeless weightless ‘other’ that all great music inhabits. It can seem ancient, it can hit you hard with its modern soul, it is full of dreaming, of those dangerous whispers barely heard from trees shifting (willingly?) in the wind. It is a slow dance it is a frantic jig, it is quiet personal, it is a rowdy Saturday night barn dance hooked already into the Sunday morning regret.

This album takes place in that dark Americana place, where love pulses with uncertainty, where tradition can be saving or can be shackles, but she writes the sad song well, filling it with hope and empathy, an unfettered joy in the telling of the story.

Musically this is simply exquisite, no pastiche of clichés, no feeling that this is archived sounds from long ago, restructured as a technical thesis on what is Roots and what is Country. This is the sound of music playing on the radio in a farm kitchen; this is the sound on my mp3 player when I want to escape the dull city day.

These guys, this woman, LOVE playing these songs creating this music, and you will love listening to this album

http://www.norajanestruthers.com

White Line And Stars – Rosehill (Cypress Creek Records)

Another review from Cobus Rossouw creator of 88 Kilos of Sunshine

I’m a long way from Texas as I write this. Outside it’s Africa and traffic but in my ears I have Heartland and Outlaws, guitars and thumping drums.

Mitch McBain and Blake Meyers (formerly the Texas High Life frontmen) have brought us an album that should be an instant classic in the genre and catapult them to fame and fortune. I say this knowing full well that it takes more than a great album with great tunes and meaningful lyrics to make it in the music trade, but the duo have shown wisdom in getting the right producer in Radney Foster and this will make all the difference.

Starting with the material, it is obvious that Meyers and McBain are mature, skilled and passionate. Their songs are a balanced trade-off between the Austin twang of guitar-dominated rock and a story-telling lyricism that is to Texas what Springsteen is to Jersey. (That’s a big statement I know but it’s there, for all to hear, on tracks like “Believer”, “Midnight America” and “Picassos for Pesos”.)

If I have a criticism, and bear in mind this is a personal one, it’s that the music is not pushing any serious boundaries, either in tone or in arrangement. But then I know for a fact I’m not the market…, my idea of Texas Country is Kinky Friedman for goodness sake. Thus, if the Pixies was your cuppa then this is not for you, but believe me, White Lines and Stars will set the Lone Star State on fire!

And it’ll do this because it is perfectly pitched. Foster’s presence ensures that all the sweet spots are hit and that everything is in the perfect place. Hold onto your hats Texans, these boys are gonna take over. This glass of whiskey looks more than half full to me.

Now if you could just look like Taylor Swift you’d be scooping Grammys next year.

http://www.rosehill-live.com

Both these albums where brought to NBT attention by the ever cool Lotos Nile

http://www.lotosnile.com/index_content.html

Hear tracks from both these albums on the NBT Podcast going out on the 7th October 2010

http://nextbigthing.libsyn.com

The NBT Review 88

The Scorpion In The Story – Tori Sparks (Glass Mountain Records)

Every time you listen to a piece of music you are entering into a journey. Depending on the art and talent of the creator, the songs will take you to places away from where you sit and listen. Sometimes they will take you to truth and knowledge deep inside of yourself, secrets you didn’t even know you had, sometimes they will take you on adventures, show you strange souls, show you the ragged wonder hiding behind the ordinary blur too many of us take for granted.

Without really setting out to do so, Tori Sparks has concocted a set of stories about places she has traveled through while performing across the USA, observing in fragments and miniatures the ever ongoing battles and victories of those curious mortals that live and strive and love there.

We observe along side her and learn with her, not just about the things she sees, but the way they touch her inside. So in a way dear listener this is really thirteen chapters, all about, You.

 Chapter one: On a choral whisper/grunt, over sleepy sly upright bass, and sweetly clear banjo, we slide into the slow focus dream of the perfect man, the perfect address, then as the song blossoms into full giddy country dance the wry truth tumbles gleefully in, the fairytale shimmer is blown away.

Refreshing.

Chapter Two: Does she escape these cascading photographs, black and white reminders, she drives fast but distance was never the cure for the ghosts in the past.

Chapter Three: As the honky tonk Taxman riff sashays around, the free girl sings in the voice of the trapped girl, what is she trapped by, by her lovers failed ambition, that’s a strong prison right there.

Chapter Four:  we mostly choose those who will make us safe, not those who make us happy. Slow dance of regret

Chapter Five: this is a minor epic, the singer tells of a life lived small and long, of the years of holding in, the singer can only respond with a song that breathes and yearns wide, she paints this brittle soul as if it were the entire world.

Chapter Six:  one of the stand out tracks, reminds one of the ‘other’ tori, but with less waft and with more dirt on her fingertips, this is the tears, then the smile through the tears, then the ‘what the hey!’ after the tears , get back on, this time around will be fun no matter what. This contains that secret ingredient of a hit song, the enjoyable heartbreak.

Chapter Seven:  Oh yes the Devil is such a charming man.

Chapter Eight:  the self image of the wild girl, after the chaos of the loud night, the quiet scary look at  the villain that may not even be there.

(All this to music that ties itself with understanding, to every word.)

Chapter Nine: look closer there are shadows in this picture of the sunlit couple.

Chapter Ten: the skill here is how she takes the story on, from the start of the disaster, and then travels on, she wants to ride the shockwaves, the afterglow, rather than the obvious big bang.

Chapter Eleven:  with a few lines the internal machine of the odd couple is caught, roots Americana  the Dixie Dregs  would be proud of.

Chapter Twelve:  Another hit in the dreaming, the subliminal brass touches deep inside, why is this not a mainstay on all the alternative playlists?

Chapter Thirteen: no not the end, cause this song makes you want to simply start the album again, come dance, come think, come lose yourself in these stories.

Don’t just take my word for it go here and find out for yourself

http://www.torisparks.com

Tori will be featured on NBT podcasts during September

http://nextbigthing.libsyn.com/

If you use Internet Explorer you can stream snippets of a couple of the Tunes here

                               http://www.nextbigthing.co.za

  (After the intro Click on the ‘#Just want to look around# text it will take u thru to next page)

   A chart made up from browsers rating and listening to the song streams can be found here:

                                      http://nbttopten.podbean.com/