The .44—In The Red (EP): Ricky Stein was well received as a solo act just over a year ago when he released his 2009 record “Crazy Days.” At the time he was a weekly resident at the legendary Hole in the Wall. During some of those sessions Stein’s high school friends would back the set with bass, keyboard, and drums. Shortly thereafter, the group hit the road for a 17-date East Coast tour for Stein’s promotional release tour. While on the road Stein wrote a few new songs that seemed to point the band in a different direction. Stein’s solo sound was incredibly Americana meets old-school blues, perhaps even with a little Motown twist. He was a blast to watch on stage because he truly embodied his music. He vibrated it just as much as it came straight out of him. On this EP, the twangy down home blues sound is muted to the point where it might be missed altogether (“Trouble All the Same” brings it as much to the forefront as they will put it). The songwriting is strikingly, lyrically strong, but it moves from a darker tone to a mellow vibe just inside the four-song EP. The instrumentation that is the .44 works well with this direction and is noticeable without being distracting. Somehow, even though there is a lot to absorb when listening to the intricacies of the EP it appears incredibly simple. Engineered at Baltimore House Studios, the EP released is apparently just a smattering of what the band is going to lay down on the local scene.
The Literary Greats—Ocean, Meet The Valley: Out of Houston comes this band that managed to climb its way to debut 153 on the CMJ 200 while unsigned. Not too shabby. The band puts together a sound that is Texan at the core with a rock back and a sprinkling of Americana and alt-rock somewhere in between. Differing from their previous release, each song on the album was written as a group. There’s an underlying darkness in the album, but it isn’t so palpable that it makes the listener uncomfortable, it’s perhaps more of a feeling of longing that comes through. Opening with “That Mountain Yonder” the album folds you in quietly and then starts smacking you around a bit with the sharp percussion and moody guitar riffs. That opener is the first of many treats on the album. Wisely blending poetic lyrics to an addictive musical backing that grips you is this band’s strength.
Jeffrey Moon—Conscious Pilot: Moon is a sing-songwriter. But he’s also a bit more than that. He primarily uses a nylon-string guitar and ‘no picks’ approach while interweaving vocal and guitar lines. His sound is soft and his voice generates a bit of the old Cat Stevens with a range to match. His CD plays beautifully, melodically and captures the listener in its sweet simplicity.