Indie Showcase: Oh Susanna, Buffalo Tom, Garrison Starr, Co-Pilgrim and others

Indie Showcase reviews artists Oh Susanna, Buffalo Tom, Garrison Starr, Co-Pilgrim, Rick Shea and more.
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By Lee Zimmerman

With such an abundance of awesome indie albums to sample each and every month, the need to expand Indie Spotlight into an online edition is all but essential. So here we go again, looking at the best of what the month offers. Though these releases generally stray below the surface, each deserves a share of the spotlight.

Read - and enjoy! (Click on the image to link to artist's website.)

Although her name conjures an image of a wistful Southern belle, as imagined by the great Stephen Foster, Oh Susanna, A.K.A. Suzie Ungerleider, is actually a well established Toronto-based singer/songwriter with an impressive track record that stretches back over two decade. Even so, past albums have found her in a somewhat reticent state of mind. It’s refreshing then to find her new effort, "A Girl In Teen City" considerably more revved up and resolute, with songs that sparkle and shine with both attitude and aptitude. There’s clear confidence in her delivery, the result perhaps of a three year hiatus which gave her opportunity to reflect and resume her commitment to music making. It’s clearly her most resolute record to date, one that finds her vying for wider attention and more mainstream appeal. At this point she’s certainly deserving.

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It would be understating their abilities simply to label Co-Pilgrim an Anglo Americana band. Although they morphed from Goldrush and other associated acts that hewed to a decidedly country rock regimen, thir imaginative impulses show them to be much more. Their new album "Moon Lagoon" boasts jubilant choruses, spontaneous shout-outs and resilient refrains so catchy and carousing that it’s all but impossible not to feel energized by the sheer exhilaration of it all. There are tender moments as well, but overall, Co-Pilgrim make quite an emphatic impression. As a bonus, the band’s offer a second disc consisting of a selection of imaginative covers culled from REM, the Jam, Guided By Voices, Kirsty MacColl and other outfits with varying degrees of obscurity. It adds to the incentive of course, but anyone who’s heard them before knows that any effort by this band stands well on its own.

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Like the Lemonheads, Dinosaur Jr. and Soul Asylum, Buffalo Tom was borne from an era of grunge and post punk revelry, but they also skewed towards a more melodic prowess that undercut their noisier inclinations. And like those other aforementioned outfits, they evolved into an even more accessible ensemble, one capable of proffering anthem-like ambitions. That was particularly true of "Let Me Come Over," the Boston-based band’s third album and the one that groomed them for the wider success they attained with follow-up "Big Red Letter Day." Now reissued, the former sounds even more impressive in retrospect, especially with the added bonus of a live disc recorded in the early ‘90s that proves, despite being rather rough around the edges, that their mix of melody and mettle was no fluke. Frontman Bill Janovitz in particular would go on to greater glories, but "Let Me Come Over" still stands as the standard by which all his ongoing efforts would be measured by. True indie auteurs, Buffalo Tom were pioneers with purpose.

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Pardon the pun, but the question begs asking. Why isn’t Garrison Starr a star? While her new EP seems to beg an ironic, if ominous, proposition, "What If There Is No Destination" is the latest in a series of excellent endeavors that verifies the fact that Starr is an incisive songwriter, one capable of creating riveting melodies and delivering them with the emotional resonance they deserve. A set of songs that are mostly of the vocal and guitar variety, it finds her as mesmerizing and inviting as ever, the sentiment settled at the forefront of each and entry entry. It is easy to love something beautiful,” she declares on “Hollow,” the second song in, and given the impression the record leaves overall, truer words were never spoken. “I’m one of the lucky ones,” she declares later on, and while that may be true, we’re even luckier to sample her skills.

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A well respected sideman and solo artist in his own right, Rick Sheareflects the sound of Bakersfield and San Bernardino, the heartland habitats where he cut his teeth as a singer, guitarist and songwriter. Shea has always been adept at blending rock, roots, blues, folk and honky tonk, and his new album, "The Losin’ End," encapsulates his reverence for the roots to a tee. Several songs stand out -- the forlorn “Goodbye Alberta,” the catchy and compelling “(You’re Gonna Miss Me) When I’m Gone,” the stark blues of “The Starkville Blues,” the Buddy Holly-like pop of “I Guess Things Happen That Way” and the easy lope of “Secret Little Mama” all testify to the fact that this album is an outstanding example of vintage Americana. And while he’s offered up any number of exceptional outings in the past -- ten albums in total -- this could be considered his most cohesive effort yet.

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When originally released in 1968, Peter Whitehead’s landmark film "Tonite Lets All Make Love In London" provided an eye-opening account of the psychedelic scene that was quickly taking over the London underground. Now, nearly 50 years later, its difficult-to-find soundtrack has made its way to the marketplace once again, courtesy of Britain’s fabled Charly Records label. While occasional recognizable names dot the album -- Pink Floyd with three abbreviated versions of their seminal “Interstellar Overdrive,” the Small Faces offering up their druggy “Here Come the Nice,” Chris Farlowe’s riveting versions of “Paint It Black and “Out of Time,” a rare appearance by folk goddess Vashti Bunyon -- but several more obscure names show up as well, among them Twice As Nice and Marquess Of Kensington. Interviews with Mick Jagger, Julie Christie, Lee Marvin, and Michael Caine add further illumination to the proceedings, making the film’s superb aural accompaniment a remarkable document of an incredible time in the history of popular culture and the world in general.

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