By Brian Turk
By Drew AIles
By Taylor Boylston
By Bree Davies
By Emerald O'Brien
By Gina Tron
By Jon Solomon
Hot on the heels of a cassette release previously reviewed in this space, comes Achupacabra!, the first CD by (you knew this was coming) Chupacabra. Like its predecessor, the disc is a live offering (albeit one that tries to mask that fact), but its production is a big improvement, and the song choices are more original: No Stevie Wonder covers this time. The material is spotty at times: "Sexy Dynamite" is the most Bouldery sort of funk imaginable (and that's not a compliment), "Bimo" is vapid in the extreme and Sunny Michelson's soulless vocals are a real liability. But "Orbit" and "Dealers!" have their moments. Don't write them off yet (available in area music stores). Boulder-based banjoist/guitarist Tony Furtado is rightly lauded as a master of practically anything with strings attached, and Dirk Powell, who's adept on fiddle, accordion and lots more, matches up with him well. The new Rounder Records disc, Tony Furtado & Dirk Powell, takes the pair across the country in twelve songs, with Powell shining on "Lonesome John," a backwoods beauty, and "La Pointe Two-Step," a bayou dance piece, and Furtado doing wonderfully emotional things with his slide guitar on "Keep Your Lamp Trimmed and Burning," "The Sloes of Penybanc" and "Boneyard." Given the plethora of acoustic formats available for the picking, the disc could have become a case study in multiple-personality disorder. But Furtado and Powell are so simpatico that even their curve balls pass through the strike zone (available in area music stores).
Delaney Street, the main vocalist for Blind Harvest, probably has never been accused of having perfect pitch: On "Autonomy," a Dave Matthews nod that kicks off the act's self-titled CD, he misses more notes than Harry Caray did in his typical rendition of the national anthem. He's more on target elsewhere, but "Luckier Than Me," "Self" and "Agreement" hew so closely to college-rock cliches that only the most easily pleased will care. Prepare to lower your standards (firstname.lastname@example.org). Vido Sun--which started out as Soak before a Dallas band with the same moniker turned up--works the same territory as does Blind Harvest, but it knows a memorable melody when it comes up with one. They don't manage to do so each time out of the blocks: On Day One, its latest disc, "Morning" delivers the sort of guitar noodling that Deadheads refer to as lyrical, and "Henry James" caused visions of Hootie & the Blowfish to dance in my head, thereby forcing me to race to the medicine cabinet for a fistful of Excedrins. But "Flying" has a catchy chorus I found more difficult to resist than I expected, and "Downtown" works in a Smashmouth kind of way. I won't be listening to it again, but neither will I go out of my way to ridicule anyone who does (www.vidosun.com).
Denver-based saxophonist Andrew Woolfolk has quite a resume: A longtime member of Earth, Wind and Fire, he's also performed with artists as disparate as Tony Bennett and Santana. His latest effort, The Drew in Plain View, is Woolfolk's entry into the smooth-jazz field: "Breach of Contract" figuratively tips its hat to Grover Washington Jr., and both "Country Road" and "Satisfied" feature the sort of anonymous-female backing vocals that began showing up when jazz-fusion went from being creatively challenging to commercially appealing. Woolfolk is an expert player, and Plain View's sound is so exquisite that aficionados of the genre will undoubtedly approve. But the CD didn't quite light my "Serpentine Fire" (Wind-Song Promotions, 303-599-0859). ShocRaDance wants to serve as a bridge between soul-jazz and trip-hop, but its disc, Trip the Light, doesn't come close to managing the trick. Brothers Jim and Steve Wilson are good players, but singer/lyricist Kirsten Bolton's contributions aren't as bewitching as they'd need to be for this concept to work, and the production is singularly lacking in mystery. "Zen Funky" is notably short on funk, "Jack and Jill" breaks its crown, and "Beep Beep de Beep" is a scat novelty that meanders for an unconscionable nine minutes. During which I spent a lot of time staring at my watch (swilson@STRIPE.COLORADO.EDU).
EVER PICK UP A CD AND KNOW EXACTLY WHAT IT WILL SOUND LIKE BEFORE YOU POP IT INTO YOUR PLAYER? IF NOT, GRAB A COPY OF HIGH SCHOOL DROPOUT BY SUBURBIA'S FINEST. THE COVER PRACTICALLY SHOUTS "GENERIC POP-PUNK," AND SO DOES THE MUSIC ITSELF. "WE ALL BLEED RED" TAKES A SWING AT TOPICALITY WITH LYRICS LIKE "WHY WE GOTTA BE COMMITTING ACTS OF SENSELESS VIOLENCE?," BUT THIS QUINTET IS CLEARLY MORE COMFORTABLE GRAPPLING WITH LESS TAXING THEMES. "ALL TOO COMMON" FINDS VOCALIST TIM BURDICK GROUSING ABOUT DATING WOES ("I MIGHT GET A HEIFER BROAD, BUT NEVER A CLASSY PUNK-ROCK GIRL"), WHILE "TOO PUNK FOR US" EMERGES AS A DEFENSE FOR NOT BEING HARDCORE ("ALL THESE BRUISES, ALL THESE CUTS, WHAT ARE THEY FOR?/I HAVE YET TO PROVE MY WORTH TO YOU"). I COULD PROBABLY TELL THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THIS DISC AND THE 500 OTHER ALBUMS JUST LIKE IT THAT I'VE HEARD OVER THE PAST COUPLE OF YEARS, BUT IT WOULDN'T BE EASY (AVAILABLE IN AREA MUSIC STORES). THE AUNTEATERS' TORN & FRAYED OFFERS A VARIETY OF MODERN ROCK AND POP FROM MUSICIANS KNOWN TO YOU, THE PUBLIC, FOR THEIR WORK WITH COMBOS SUCH AS MR. WOODMAN AND THE SIMPELTONES. LEAD VOCALIST JIM VALENTINE CAN BE TOUGH TO TAKE AT TIMES--"BLIND FAITH" HAD ME CRINGING, AND WHILE A SENSE OF CAMARADERIE HELPS MAKE "YESTERDAYS," "FINGERS CROSSED" AND THE MOCK-COUNTRY LAMENT "TOMBSTONE SERENADE" PASSABLE, THAT DOESN'T MEAN THEY'RE DEATHLESS. OKAY AT BEST, AND PRETTY INESSENTIAL (AUNTEATERS@USA.NET).