Fantastico Records – December 2, 2016
Johnny Conqueroo has enjoyed some fantastic (and well-deserved) success over the last two years or so. They released their self-titled EP last summer and have played a bunch of shows and local festivals, gaining a large following in a relatively short time. This Friday, they follow all that up with the release of their first full-length, Washed Up.
The forty-four minute album is ten songs long (eight and a half are originals), and though it explores a wide range of sounds over its course, it remains cohesive and engaging throughout. The lead-off // title-track is fun, catchy, and youthful – “Washed Up” expands the sound from the three-piece’s last release with bells, handclaps, and background vocals. “High Tiding” is a great take on fellow neo-blues musician, Nick Waterhouse, sped up and with busier instrumentation. My favorite of the album may be “Dancin With You,” a song whose unique texture catches your ear the very moment it starts, doubling the lead guitar on synthesizer during the intro and the bits between verses. The track is punctuated with spoken backgrounds of ‘dancin’ and ‘groovin,’ and fleshed out the rest of the way with shakers, shuffling drums, and a grooving bassline. “The Key” could nearly pass for The Doors, complete with ‘oompah’ organ and a vocal melody placed right in the harmony the way Jim Morrison might’ve done.
The latter half of the record is impressively strong and perhaps more experimental than the first half. “Who Do You Trust” is quick with barked vocals and warped guitars that remind me just a little of fellow Kentuckians, Teal Grapefruit. The slow, weighty drone of “Palindrone” goes along for nearly seven minutes with sparse vocals, but the instrumentation and intensity swells and recedes well, keeping the track interesting throughout. “Grinding on Sand” is lo-fi and crunchy with a totally bizarre texture of lap steel (and something, maybe whistling?) – it’s really far-out. The final track, “Take 5,” is sort of a cover on the jazz piece made famous by Dave Brubeck – a brief, and fairly faithful rendition of the tune starts around the three-minute mark, sandwiched between two mirroring sections of high-energy rock.
Washed Up comes out this Friday at the band’s release show at The Burl, where I assume you’ll be able to get the album in physical form – the photography and layout of the whole package wraps the whole thing well, perfectly matching the vibe of the album. It’s exciting to see such a high-quality release from Johnny Conqueroo, and to hear them continue to grow and establish their sound. Grab yourself a copy and give it a listen when it comes out – it’s great, fun stuff.
Tracks I Liked: Washed Up!, Dancin With You!!!, Who Do You Trust?!!, Palindrone!, Grinding on Sand!, Take 5!!
Ben Southworth – November 27, 2016 – Kenwick Place
Autobiographical Millennial Blues
Self-Released November 11, 2016
I’m not totally in tune with music being made in Western Kentucky, especially as far west as Paducah. That said, Shannon Vetter has played in bands you may have heard of – Gideon’s Rifle and Big Atomic, to name a couple – and the eighteen contributing musicians on the album make up several more. Rapid Cycle tells some great, relatable stories and explores a wide swath of sound, too. “Temptation,” the lead single, is a swampy blues track complete with crooning electric guitar, a sax solo, and some awesome back-up vocals that really set the mood. Back to back, at the center of the album are a pair of great, quieter songs. “Seasonal Affective Disorder” explores the frustration of living in a small town, orchestrated beautifully with strings and pedal steel. The track nearly fades into “Waiter’s Lament,” which headlines each verse with “I don’t want to wait tables for the rest of my life … I can’t go back to school and end up with more debt” – it’s a worrying situation that too many young people can relate to. Towards the back of the album is “Don’t Know How To Be Alone,” a short, patiently arranged song and fresh take on loneliness. Rapid Cycle is a solid album that explores a variety of sounds, shows off Vetter’s creative songwriting, and features some very tasteful and talented supporting musicians.
He’ll be backed by the Sleepless Pilgrims in Lexington on Saturday at Best Friend Bar to show off the new album.
Tracks I Liked: Existential Blues!, Temptation!!, Seasonal Affective Disorder!!, Waiter’s Lament!, Oh Me, Oh My!!, Don’t Know How to Be Alone!!!
Ben Southworth – November 6, 2016 – Kenwick Place
Fuzzy Psych Rock
October 2nd, 2015 – Gubbey Records
New Bravado is a band that I’ve only heard a song or two from before this album – I remember seeing them among the other forty-five songs on Gubbey’s Head Cleaner Vol. 1&2 from late 2013. Otherwise, the band’s sound is new to me, and their music is a refreshing find. Though the music on Sun and Moon is wrapped thickly in psychedelic influence – warped guitars, reverberating vocals, and fuzzy bass – the songs don’t get lost in themselves. Even tracks like “Vacant,” which employs some nearly disorienting chord changes, never quite come untethered from their direction. Though the guitars, synths, and effects have a way of manipulating the listener into getting lost in the sounds they’re generating, the bass and drums stay steady and anchor the tracks before the band in full jostles you back into their forward motion. There are hints of prog-rock and even some blues here, too, but for the most part the record keeps itself rooted in steadily moving psych rock – though the arrangements might get a little dense at times, the songs remain light and agile. If you’re a fan of rock music in any form, I think this should keep you interested – Sun and Moon is inventive and intricately crafted, but it remains accessible and easy to pick up.
Tracks I Liked: Sol Similar!!, White Jesus!, Vacant!!, Adelaide!, Bit By Piece!, Sun and Moon!
Stream the Album Below:
Ben Southworth – October 17th, 2015 – Park Avenue
IPB: Tell me a little bit about yourselves. Who are you, and how do you all know each other?
JC: We are all lexington natives, we met through school. Grant Curless (guitarist) and Wils Quinn (drummer) met in middle school. Wils met Shawn Reynolds (bassist) in high school. Grant and Wils began jamming in middle school and built up a strong musical relationship. However it lacked a nice low end and so Wils enlisted friend Shawn Reynolds.
What makes three guys your age want to play in a blues rock band?
We are all really moved by the blues and soul music. We love the culture and the history around the blues. As for the rock portion we believe that my just be a part of our interpretation of the blues. We just naturally rough it up a bit, make it a bit tougher.
What was your all’s process like for writing and recording your EP?
The interesting thing about the EP is that we were really just recording our rehearsals, as we continued to save our money to go into a real studio. We decided our “basement recordings” sounded good enough, and it allowed us to self-fund and self-produce our own record which was a great experience.
Where do you get your inspiration for lyrics in your songs? (I would imagine that none of you have actually spent a ‘night in jail’ – please forgive me if I’m assuming wrong).
You are correct none of us have spent a night in jail. However that song is based off a true story that happened in one of the band members life that is re told in the first person. Songs like those are really inspired by old blues songs which usually revolve around dark topics such as: Adultery, revenge, intoxication, voodoo and whatever else we can squeeze in there to make us seem tough. Its all a part of the game, Johnny Cash never shot a man in Reno but builds a strong image and makes for a good song.
Why did you choose the Howlin’ Wolf tune to cover? What do you like about that song particularly?
We are really big fans of Howlin’ Wolf and his music, he was one of our bigger inspirations. We were messing around with playing Smokestack Lightning as well as Spoonful. We chose Smokestack Lightning just because we felt like it was more accessible to being “rocked up” it was easier to add our own twist to it.
Do you feel like being young helps or hurts your all’s case for being a band – do some people not take you seriously, are people especially interested in you all because of your age, or does it seem to make much difference at all?
Being teenagers can both be our best friend and our worst enemy at times. We get a lot more attention because we are young. This is great, we love any attention we get, its also nice because we have more time to build ourselves up as a band before the real world hits us and we have to go to college or get jobs. However being young also comes with its disadvantages, we are a little tired of being referred to as a teen band. Yes, we are all teens, but we want our music to speak for its self, we want to just be a band, our ages should have nothing to do with it. It can also be tough to get gigs at real bars because of the age difference.
What has been your all’s favorite experience as a band thus far? Your strangest?
Recently we have had some shows where we could pull in some large crowds of peers. The last one we played we were able to get the whole crowd dancing and even a few dancing on the stage. During that show there was a lot of great energy, so Grant decided to jump out into the crowd during his solo. He jumped off the stage and landed wrong and ended up dislocating his knee cap. He finished the last two songs on the ground, having a audience member holding the mic for him. That may have been the best and worst experience we have had as of yet.
What plans do you all have for the future of Johnny Conqueroo?
Recently we have been fortunate to work with several people interested in helping us take the band to the next level. Meanwhile we keep writing, recording and rehearsing for upcoming shows and our next EP.
What music are each of you listening to the most right now?
We are listening to all types of music right now. We have been listening to the classic blues as usual: Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters, BB King, RL Burnside and Son House. We recently have been influenced by more heavy or psychedelic acts such as: Early Sabbath, Jimi Hendrix, Reignwolf, Ty Segall, tonstartssbandht, King Gizard and The Lizard Wizard.
Thanks to Johnny Conqueroo for taking the time for this interview – if you’re interested in seeing them perform soon, you can see them at the following times and places:
Ben Southworth – October 13th, 2015 – Kenwick Place
Self-Released – October 9th, 2015
DeBraun Thomas is an important guy when it comes to the Lexington music scene. He’s produced the Crunkadelic Funk Show since 2009 (at WRFL from 2009 to 2013, and at WUKY from 2013 to present) and does segment at WUKY called ‘Local Music Mondays’ highlighting a different member in Lexington music each week. DeBraun has been a part of different bands throughout the last several years (Relic Delic and Soul Funkin Dangerous), but recently he’s been playing around town under his own name. His first album, All My Colors Are Blind, is a collection of ten tracks that channel influences of funk, soul, rhythm & blues, and rock – the themes of the songs range from more serious explorations of things like love, longing, diversity and racial acceptance to lighter subject matters like being ‘Broke in Denver.’
All My Colors Are Blind is not only a collection of good songs, though – it listens well as an album, too. DeBraun shows an affinity for grooving, up-tempo blues in tracks like “Bedroom Stranger” and the aforementioned “Broke in Denver,” but these are broken up well with slower and more contemplative songs throughout. “Bourbon Tears” is a lead-guitar-heavy slow-burner, “Take Me to Olympus” is simply DeBraun singing with an acoustic guitar – the two tracks are back to back, and offer an intimate centerpiece to the record. The album is a great production the whole way through, and DeBraun thanks a long list of people for their help in making it that way – over ten skilled musicians, the talents of Shangri-La Productions, and a lengthy list of supporters and contributors (former WRFLian, Daniel Morgan did some great work with the album art and design, too). All My Colors Are Blind is a satisfying result from someone who has put in more than their fair share of work and support within Lexington’s music scene, and absolutely something to be enjoyed and appreciated.
You might be able pick up a physical copy of All My Colors Are Blind at CD Central and Morris Book Shop for a few more days, and the album is available for download online at these places (to name a few): iTunes | Amazon | Google Play
You can catch Debraun this Saturday at Cosmic Charlie’s for the release party for All My Colors Are Blind – RSVP and let him know you’ll be there.
Tracks I Liked: All My Colors Are Blind, Coming Back, Bourbon Tears!, Broke in Denver!, Zuberi
Ben Southworth – October 10th, 2015 – Kenwick Place