Slopeside – Road to Oblivion (self)
Genre/Style: adult contemporary, soft rock, pop
Notes: You’re in your car. You’re driving 75. You want to feel like you’re driving 100. You put a new disc in the player. It’s called Road to Oblivion. You know the band. You know the producer. Your expectations are high. You hear the revving of a high performance motor starting off the first track. You feel a tingle of excitement as your foot itches to press slightly down on the accelerator in anticipation of being hit hard in the chest by a solid kick – but it doesn’t emerge. Instead you get a limp ____ of a foot in the chest – and the makings of a solid, if uninspiring, album dedicated to soft voices, lush harmonies, subdued tones, and the old “a little bit of rocknroll, a little bit of country” vibe. Producer John McVey, a smoking singer/songwriter in his own right and well known for this kind of soft adult contemporary work (think Shawn Colvin and early John Mayer), eases up on the rocky road feel here in favor of an old school Buick floating down the highway.
Disclaimer: I’ve known drummer Norris Jones for over 20 years; he played in one of my older bands, and I’ve always known him as “Thunder Hands Jones.” I guess I expected his once powerful chops to show up on this record. I’ve known lead singer / songwriter Arn Current for over a decade; he’s got one hellova vocal range; I guess I expected more emotional range to go along with that great vocal range. I’ve booked the band to appear in at least one room I’ve promoted … so I like these guys … and this is by far the best thing they’ve ever recorded and released. But it is not good enough, sadly. I want more.
It’s okay to be soft and easy going, and even to lending a bit of Bon Jovi’s inspired country-rock vibe in your style, but please don’t tease kids — kill it … (even if it’s a love song) … make my foot slam the pedal to the floor board… make me grip the wheel, max the speakers, and drive the road to oblivion – after all, that’s what the album is called, isn’t it? Favorite tracks include the dreamier love songs “Love You More” and “Don’t Know Why.”
Max Speed Desired: 100. Speed Achieved: 60 (which is fast enough if you’re driving an old Buick).
Mountain Standard Time – Mountain Standard Time (self) Genre/Style: rock, bluegrass, jamgrass
Notes: There is considerable buzz among some of my peers and collegues in the scene about this band. I can see why. I haven’t seen them live, but after this album I am excited at doing just that. There have been other jamgrassers in the region who have tried this – adding sax to the band – adding in some jazz elements, etc… to not such grand accomplishment. The guitarist and sax player are jaw dropping good. I’d love to see guitarist Stanton Sutton go riff for riff with the likes of someone like national flatpicking champ Tyler Grant (Emmitt-Nershi Band, The Grant Farm). I’d love to see saxophonist Kyle Stersic throw down at someplace like Dazzle or Jazz @ Jacks. As a debut, this is great. There is a bit too heavy a reliance on the oh-so-typical country/bluegrass shuffle, as the players are really about showcasing their jam chops, but I expect that will settle down a bit over future recordings. There are some hits and misses vocally as well, though overall there’s enough strength there to keep my interest. Also, all too typical of a lot of jam bands (and jazz) 4 of the 10 songs are over six minutes – perfect for jazz, not so perfect for grass … and not too good for radio programs like mine that prefer songs under five minutes as much as possible. Otherwise, where others have given their best effort, MST succeeded in making me forget about Leftover Salmon for 49.3 minutes. Favorite songs include…. welllllll…. the whole album I guess … this one stays in the player a while.