There are true songwriters and true musicians. And usually you won’t find both in the same band.
Keeping this fact in mind, The Cabin Killers are a real surprise. Led by principal songwriter Aaron Lipp, this five-man team is truly impressive on this 12-song, nearly hourlong release.
The group also includes Richland High School grad Scott Calpin, who recently received serious injuries in an automobile accident.
There are several high points on the album. “Sunday Morning Whiskey” shows boozy a swagger, “Bedford Station Operation” is shamelessly dance-able and “Winter Blues” is a sulky ballad with orchestral flair.
Overall, this Naples, New York-based group makes music perfect for your next riverboat gambling trip. The 12 tracks on this self-titled release are “songs” in the truest sense — masterfully composed and allowing each member to shine.
THE CABIN KILLERS
12 songs, 58:53
If you’re an American ignoramus like me, you won’t be able to properly pronounce — let alone interpret — some of the titles on this one. Luckily, music is the “universal language.” And this effort should speak to any listener awaiting with an open mind.
“Yoga Song” includes an impressively diverse array of instruments, creating soothing “world” sounds. But Rachel Allen makes more than just mood music, using subtle dynamics — such as tone and pacing — that should be appreciated by the conscious listener.
“Lo Kah Samasta Suke Nu Bh Avantu” (sing that one 10-times fast) starts with slow ambiance and accelerates into a catchy bass-and-bongo groove. On “Oh Shakti,” Allen proves that meditative music can employ a pentatonic blues sound as well.
Whether you’re seeking out inner peace or simply broadened horizons, this music is little bit of multilingual bliss.
9 songs, 31 minutes
Rarely does a random flirtation with pre-fabricated Spotify playlists pan out.
This time I lucked out.
Little Chief was one of these chance encounters. This cryptic little group hailing from Fayetteville, Arkansas (band members’ names aren’t listed on their website, littlechiefband.com) brings all the acoustic goodness of Mumford and Sons without overdoing the hyper-choral, arena-rock bravado.
Remarkably polished and produced for an unsigned act. In a genre so familiar and rich with tradition, Little Chief brings something new to the conversation. Their music delivers the hushed, low-key goodness promised by the EP’s cover. The male-female vocal duet evokes Christian themes with quiet optimism.
Don’t be surprised to hear bigger and better things from Little Chief.
Sooner rather than later.
10 songs, 35:19
Little Chief, 2014
Look no farther for the theme music to your next late-night Taco Bell run.
You’ve got to admire musicians who are unafraid to take chances and experiment. And “Womb” parts I and II from the Anti-Corn League is basically Frankenstein’s lab (if Frankenstein fooled with farfisa and Glockenspiel instead of monster creation).
Recorded sporadically from 2011-2014 at locations in Vintondale and Ebensburg, this 24-track double-disc opus is more than an hour-and-a-half in length. The songs evoke Lennon playing Syd Barrett numbers within a dream of Jack White’s. Pleasant one moment, then discordant, strange and disconcerting the next. “Popular Culture,” “Mummy Tummy” and “Holy Jack(off)” are the diamonds in the rough.
Kudos to a group of artists who unabashedly abandon contemporary tastes in homage to their ’60s-pyschedelic and garage-rock heroes.
THE ANTI-CORN LEAGUE- ‘Womb’ (parts I & II)
24 songs, 102:21 (Double-disc)
If you used to party at the former Pony Lounge along Scalp Avenue, you may remember Candlelight Red coming to town.
You may not know, however, that these guys have made a name for themselves nationwide.
Last year, the four-piece metal band from Williamsport toured in direct support of Sevendust and Coal Chamber (both of ’90s fame), and released an LP named “Reclamation.” The album melds hardcore breakdowns, singing guitars and big, melodic choruses in fashions familiar to fans of the early 2000s nu-metal scene. Overall, the sound is equal parts In Flames and Breaking Benjamin.
While the album doesn’t break brand-new ground, fans of the genre will appreciate this collection of tight compositions, delivered with skill and intention.
If you liked and remembered them from the Pony, it might be time to revisit.
13 songs, 47:03
Imagen Records, 2013
A surprising eponymous EP was recently produced at Black Bear Studio in Boswell.
Country Treats was written by Somerset graduate Michael D’Arcangelo under the name “Mik Jenkins.” In fact, all project contributors took on the surname “Jenkins,” giving it the facade of a down-home family band.
D’Arcangelo’s croon is reminiscent of vintage Neil Young and Axl Rose (think “Patience”), and it culminates with “Alone and Forsaken.” The tone is sad, but not hopeless. And there’s chemistry between all seven players. (It’s worth noting that Tom Hampton also played pedal steel with the Marshall Tucker Band. “Can’t You See?”)
Andrew Wilson — mixing and engineering — and Don Zientara at Inner Ear Studios — mastering — help polish the CD, giving it rich texture. (Worth noting that Zientara has worked with Fugazi and John Frusciante, ex-Red Hot Chili Peppers.)
The tragedy here is brevity. Four treats isn’t enough.
4 songs, 16:31
Four vocalists who can hold a note while frenetically picking through mandolins, guitars and banjos. Bright and melancholy, sometimes at once. Thirteen tracks at a nicely paced 49 minutes.
The Striped Maple Hollow self-titled debut is admirable in depth and range. “Kill or Be Killed” brings haunting ambiance. “My Place in the Sun” is playful, pop-friendly even. “Happy Together” — a cover of The Turtles — masterfully juggles melody.
Impressively executed Americana, refreshing from start to finish. The lilting vocal melodies between Jayna and Sonya overlay nicely. Micah and Adam hold it all together with tact and precision. No percussion here, so forget foot-stomping or dancing. This is mood music, bittersweet as wild chive.
Just one of many bands to keep on your radar here in the Laurel Highlands
13 songs, 49:09
Struggle Buggy Records, 2013