Indie Spotlight: Music reviews of independent artists

Indie Spotlight's music reviews of independent artists, from singer-songwriter Clarence Bucaro to folkie Ana Egge.
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Clarence Bucaro makes music that catches hold immediately, creating an instant lump in the throat while seizing on the senses. His current effort, Passionate Kind, is the latest in a line of exceptional efforts that affirm Bucaro’s talents as a singer-songwriter who deserves to grab the attention and soar to the top of the charts in the process. Possessing an easy, unassuming vocal, and relying only on his engaging and appealing melodies, he wrings emotion and results that have his songs sounding like storied standards even from the get go. The back and forth dialogue that pits “Where Do I Go” with the track that follows, “Maybe You Should Go” is an ideal example. The former purveys a wounded remorse reminiscent of Blood on the Tracks, while the latter sounds so unerringly familiar, it leaves no obstacles in the way as far as getting under the skin. Indeed, there’s not a single song here that doesn’t resonate even on first hearing. Bucaro boasts a talent that’s preternatural but without pretence. Likewise, there’s never been an album that’s boasted a more tellingly descriptive title.

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With his latest album South and West, David Starr makes another enormous leap into the realms of emotion and desire, doing so in ways that resonate with credence and compassion. Make no mistake; Starr knows how to rev up his rhythms and decisively deliver his songs, but clearly he’s most effective when he’s simply baring his soul. Starr sings songs that aren’t only affecting; they’re also real, leaving no doubt as to the anguish and conflict felt whenever a relationship unravels while failing to give warning. “If I can’t make you feel my love, then what am I supposed to do,” he asks on the candid confessional “Maybe You’re Not the One.” Melody and musings combine with an incisive impact, clearly giving voice to that plaintive perspective. A masterful cover of the Elton John classic “Country Comfort” adds familiarity, but in a deeper sense, these songs say it all as far as the feelings that reside in the depths of Starr’s soul.

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Returning to his given name after referring to himself as simply “Shimmy,” the helmsman of East Tennessee’s Shimmy & The Burns, singer/songwriter Brian Paddock steps out on his own with a stirring full length solo debut, aptly entitled Under New Management. To be sure, it’s not the first effort on his own -- an acoustic EP preceded this LP earlier this year -- but these eleven songs represent his most emphatic excursion so far. With his sandpapery vocals and a clear sense of grit and determination underscoring these songs, he comes across as a genuine journeyman in every sense, whether delivering driving tunes of clear conviction or musing on contemplative, heartfelt narrative ballads imbued with sensitivity and substance. With fellow musical compatriots Greg Horne, Kevin Abernathy, Jeff Bills and Tim Lee providing support among others, Paddock creates songs that feel both pointed and poignant. The title track itself is a document of despair about unfortunate changes that have overtaken our country in the wake of a new administration. Mostly though, Under New Management represents a renewed journey birthed by inspiration. And it’s simply superb.

Raised by hippies on a small farm in a remote region of North Dakota, Ana Egge reflected on the ways of the world from a viewpoint of isolation and introspect. Her music reflects those wide-eyed sentiments and the wonders it embraced. Honesty is instilled in her music, and after some eight albums to date, she’s become a source of serenity in both sound and suggestion. That’s especially true on her newest release, White Tiger, ten songs that reflect that sublime sense of wonder and wanderlust. It’s an exquisite album in every sense, radiating warmth and serenity with her usual hushed reverence. Many of the songs rarely rise above a whisper, but given that each is imbued with such carefully nurtured tenderness and sentiment, they still manage to catch the ear even on first encounter. Credit Egge with capturing attention in a noisy world of cacophony and turmoil, and still emerging well above the fray. White Tiger resonates not with a roar, but with quiet contemplation.

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Essex Green is a pop/folk combo of considerable merit, although their recent hiatus left fans wondering about a possible return. Happily then, Hardly Electronic provides the happy happenstance their devotees were hoping for. All upbeat, giddy melodies, the Essex essentials are still intact in the combined vocals of Sasha Green, Jeff Baron and Christopher Ziter, as well as through the uptempo tunes they deliver along the way. Both sweetly sublime and flush with undiminished exuberance, the 14 tunes that make up the new album ring with a distinctly ‘60s sensibility that recalls an era when innocence and enthusiasm found equal standing. Every offering here provides a sense of sheer joy, an uplifting attitude undiminished by the test of time. As a mood-changer, it can take its listeners from grumpy to good, while providing a wonderful additive a day that demands a lift from lethargy or merely some extra exhilaration. Hardly Electronic is hardly worth missing.

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Gene Turonis, A.K.A. Gene D. Plumber, is an ideal example of a man who has toiled by day to make a living, but maintained his passion for making music at night. Somehow he succeeded at doing both. At age 72, this plumber turned troubadour is finally expressing his true inner self through his debut album, a jaunty and carefree collection cheekily title All the Pretty Girls. A combination of Plumber’s originals and a choice selection of archival covers, he sings with a weathered vocal that betrays a lifetime of anecdotes and observations. It’s a style he jokingly refers to as “swinging honkytonk-a-billy.” Hints of Willie Nelson and John Prine filter into his stylistic set-up, but even so, Plumber’s carefree sense of humor allows him to stand apart. Covers of songs by George Jones, Steve Fromholz, Clarence Gatemouth Brown and Chris Kenner, the latter being the rock and roll standard “I Like It Like That,” reference his roots. Granted, Plumber’s turn of a wrench makes this an unusual tale, but the man’s enjoyment is obvious, making this unlikely debut a musical delight all round.

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