While Len's Lounge has always been a forum for writer Jeff Roberson's "mongrel Americana" musings, he's been ably augmented the past two years by a core group that includes bassist Paul Cavins, violinist Annette Ellis and vocalist/guitarist Annie Winslow. With Winslow moving away this fall, what better way to take a musical snapshot for the Lounge's rotating family album then memorializing its most cohesive, productive lineup with a live disc. Recorded at Jack Quinn's last December, The Longest Night judiciously chooses from recent studio efforts, while mixing in rare early tracks ("Whirl") and new songs. While no career oeuvre, it's a generous helping of what the Lounge does best.
Blending earnest storytelling with a liberating rawness gleefully devoid of folksy pretentiousness, Night is grass roots 'n roll with a side order of down home soul. Sidemen Mick Stapleton (drummer for The Stapletons) and keyboardist Ben Doepke of Homunculus help give Night the full(er) band treatment. With Doepke's Hammond organ lending an occasional elegiac air, the results sound looser and more immediate. The whole band coalesces on "After Image" with a muscular eight-minute workout that's almost like a lost Allman Brothers' track. At the centerpiece of the disc is one of Roberson's thematic best — the haunting "Road Dog" — with its Southern gothic imagery and almost mythical evocation of life on the rails/run. Night also features three Winslow compositions, including the gorgeous, bittersweet "Green."
After some delays, The Longest Night gets "CD release partied" on Friday at the York Street Café in Newport, with special guests The Thirteens and Appalachian Cancer. (Sean Rhiney)
Saturday, Pop/Rock song master Swarthy and his Swarthy Band will release, Oh Yeah, the crew's first full-length (following the 2002 EP, Play This In Front of Your Cool Friends), in conjunction with a show at the York Street Café. Locals greatmodern open.
Swarthy (né Brian Love) is fluent in the language of classic Pop music. He virtually speaks in melody and makes the art of creating memorable songs seem effortless. Insuring the best delivery of his songs, Swarthy's band (Michael "Maddog" Mavridoglou, Nicholas Mavridoglou and Jeremy Smart) is remarkably proficient and versatile, providing the perfect backdrop and some amazing harmonies. Yeah is a full-band project, with all of the members contributing to the writing. With Maddog handling the production, the sound of Oh Yeah is tighter and slightly more raw than Cool Friends, enabling the ballads to be more immediate and the rockers to be more rumbling. The first three tracks encapsulate everything great about the disc. "Are We Through?," with its serpentine melody and Who-like rattle, "All Your Little Problems," which features high-flying falsetto tickling, and the impressively dynamic, Guided By Voices-ish "What's Wrong With You?" have more searing hooks than many bands find in a lifetime. Other standouts include Maddog's Badfinger-esque "No I I Know Know You," the Beatles/Beach Boys-harmonizes of "Oh Yeah" and Smart's "The Simple Life," which comes off like The Band covering a Hüsker Dü song. Swarthy is one of the best songwriters in Cincinnati; with his remarkable band behind him and Oh Yeah under his belt, he's now bulletproof. (swarthy.net)
SS-20 Get Back
Local veteran Punk heroes SS-20 release their latest CD, Let's Get Back to Bedrock, on Friday with a free show at The Comet in Northside with The Reduced and The Airstream Ramblers. The band also performs Saturday at Sudsy Malone's with Punk legends, The Vibrators.
Singer Robert "Jughead" Sturdevant turns 50 on Saturday and while the ferocity and velocity of SS-20 might have diminished since they were the stars of the storied Jockey Club scene in the '80s, the group remains rooted in the ideology and sonic motif of those days. It's refreshing to hear the real deal in an age where "Punk" has largely lost its meaning. The band can still sound incendiary (like Pedro-X's winding guitar explosions on the instrumental "Industrial Strength," for example). Lyrically, the group still has its priorities in place, singing odes to beer ("A Million Beers Ago," the Ska-tinged "All Beered Up") and B-movies ("When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth"), and offering political observations ("Moron With A War On") with their trademark mix of cleverness and malice. (ss20.net)