Local quartet Steel Petals has boiled down their best stuff into something more sinister and soulful on this solid new collection.
The nasty, rattling blues riff in the opening measures of "The Tides" sets the tone for most of this dense, funky, and dank set. Draped with frontman Blake Ohlson's distorted pedal steel and Whitt Algar's oscillating organ, the opening track of Steel Petals stomps and bounces like mad. Ohlson's snarling singing style complements his muscular guitar and steel work.
The equally riffy "Yer Bottom" and boogie-based "Satellite Blues" follow with similar energy, pulling from the works of classic blues-rockers, old and new.
There's a healthy dose of Johnny Winter, John Lee Hooker, ZZ Top, Hendrix, and Clapton. Some licks and verses might remind the listener of certain deep cuts by the Black Crows or Morphine. The slow-rolling "Sunday Sound," for instance, is a Southern rock anthem in the vein of the Allman Brothers and Lynyrd Skynyrd, replete with a ticklish piano solo and impassioned backing vocals from guest singer Ivory Collins.
With organ/electric piano swells and fuzzy guitar tones, the swingin' "True to Me" smacks of Boston's "Smokin'." The head-bangin' "Jealousy for Hire" could have been a hidden Deep Purple session. "Tumbleweed" stands out as the most cheerful of the bunch. Listen for the cool acoustic "hidden track" featuring dobro and piano at the tail end of final track "26-2 Murder." Great stuff. (steelpetals.net) —T. Ballard Lesemann
Recorded at Awendaw Green's studio, A Fragile Tomorrow's new album is a crisp debut with an abundance of willfully quirky guitar hooks and romantic melancholic lyrics. Songsmith Danielle Howle guided the studio production of lead singer/guitarist Sean Kelly's songs, creating an uncluttered document of this young band's strongest original stuff.
Fortunately, Tripping Over Nothing rarely trips or falls — from the riff-driven and dynamic opener "Man with a Bottle" and the jangly "Peaceful Days" to the sorrowfully romantic "Captured."
A few celebrity performances add to the texture of the music. Indigo Girl Amy Ray sings on "Dear Abbey White" and "Thirteen." Susan and Miranda Cowsill harmonize on "Tupelo Song." Guitarist/keyboardist Peter Holsapple (of The dB's) performs on "Something to Say" and "I Just Never Said Enough."
The overall sound quality — and the snare drum, in particular — on this album seems a little thin and trebly at times, but the mix is nicely balanced, and the instrumentation and harmonies are cleverly arranged. We're already looking forward to the sophomore effort. (afragiletomorrow.com) —T. Ballard Lesemann