Tag Archives: Bruce Siwy


When you think of beer meccas, Italy isn’t first on the list. Conventional wisdom holds that you look to this country more for wine than suds.

Even so, don’t dismiss Peroni outright.

Billed as the top Italian beer import to America, this is a foamy and straw-colored brew with a floral aroma. There are similarities to another European brew, Beck’s, in the use of Saaz hops, or at least Saaz-like hops, in the creation process.

To be forthright and honest, it’s a pretty thin offering. There’s not a whole lot of substance to it.

Still, if you enjoy European-style pilsners — or light, summer-y easy drinkers — Peroni isn’t the worst route to take.



‘Emperor of Sand’
11 songs, 51 minutes
Reprise Records (2017)

An old friend once joked that he expected the next Mastodon album to sound a lot like Nickelback.

The guy was taking a swipe at the decidedly un-metal direction this Atlanta-based group has taken on recent albums. And if you listen to “Show Yourself,” the second track on the new record, you can kind of see what he meant.

But despite some obvious pop overtures, “Emperor of Sand” really isn’t a bad album. The song “Steambreather” locks in a mean prog-rock groove that calls Rush to mind. “Roots Remain,” the following track, is just as solid.

This is Mastodon’s best offering since 2009’s “Crack the Skye.” As long as you don’t go into it expecting to hear songs in the vein of “March of the Fire Ants,” you should have no problem enjoying this one.



Flying Dog, even in its weakest offerings, always impresses aesthetically with its Steadman-style illustrated labels.

And thankfully, with Lucky SOB, this brewer strikes gold with what’s inside the bottle as well.

An Irish red ale with a hint of strawberry in the scent, this one pours a chestnut brown with a dark-cherry glossing. The floral hops add spice to a flavor that has fruit character without the sweetness.

Brewed with clovers for a subtle accent and, undoubtedly, a nice marketing hook, this is an intriguing beer that’s probably the best this reviewer has tried thus far in 2017.

Hats off, yet again, to the eminent brewers at Flying Dog.



‘Like an Arrow’
12 songs, 48 minutes
Legged Records (2016)

This is a band that’d sound equally at home opening for ZZ Top as it would opening for Eric Church — and has, in fact, already done both.

On last year’s “Like an Arrow,” Blackberry Smoke lays out a down-home Southern swing and, occasionally, hard-rock stomp. Charlie Starr’s voice is comparable to that of the Black Crowes’ Chris Robinson, and the group’s singing dual-guitar leads and walking piano lines evoke ghosts of the original Skynyrd lineup.

Highlights of this album include “Waiting for the Thunder,” a righteous rocker, and low-key “The Good Life.” Also worth noting that “Free On the Wing,” a collaboration with the legendary Gregg Allman, makes for a sweet closer.

The group’s music and merch can be found at www.blackberrysmoke.com.



If aroma and flavor were everything, this one could be an award winner.

Shock Top Ginger Wheat blends a citrus and — of course — ginger scent into a tangerine-colored brew topped with precious little foam. The taste includes both of the aforementioned and a fair amount of spice and honey. It’s sweet, but not sickishly.

All this is fine and good. But it falls way short on mouthfeel.

A better brew in this genre would expand for a more satisfying finish. The effort is good here — it’s just a little too watered-down for a lot of wheat beer drinkers.



‘The Clarity’
9:51 (single)
Southern Lord Recordings (2017)

Unless you were heavy into the stoner-doom scene of the early ‘90s, Sleep means nothing to you musically.

This obscure three-piece act enjoyed a brief cultish fandom at the time for playing slower than just about anyone for longer than just about anyone. “Jerusalem,” released in 1999, includes six eponymous tracks with an average length of eight minutes each — essentially a single 52-minute composition.

So at a hair longer than nine minutes, consider “The Clarity” the band’s experiment with brevity. The band’s droning, Sabbath-meets-Chains, grind-it-out style ages remarkably well: You could have found this song on an old bootlegged tape cassette under your ripped flannels and never blinked.

No metal collection is truly complete without some Sleep in the catalog. See what the buzz is about by sampling on Spotify and then, you know, buy it on vinyl and stuff.



We end a full month of cheap booze with an old standard.

Affectionately referred to as “Genny” by adoring fans, Genesee is advertised as one of America’s oldest continually operating breweries. It has a brine-ish scent, lots of head and a flavor heavy on barley, conveying traces of month-old peanuts. The aftertaste, unlike the light version of this, is thankfully not pure aluminum.

Don’t misunderstand: Genny isn’t the worst entry to the review this month. But at $13 for a 24-pack, you have to dock points for it being the most expensive of the bargain beers.

Final standings: Extra Gold Lager in first, Milwaukee Special Reserve in second, Genesee in third, Pennsylvania Style Lager in fourth and American (sorry, @POTUS) a distant fifth. 



‘Norwegian Summers’
11 songs, 46 minutes
Melantopia Music (2016)

A lot of the music featured in this spot comes by request from area musicians hoping to spread the word.

Sometimes, however, a solicitation comes from outside the region. And, in the case of Melantopia, it comes all the way from Europe.

“Norwegian Summers” is an instrumental composition by Jarl Aanestad of Norway. The style is electronic and ambient, at times eerily similar to music on “The Fragile,” as if Aanestad stole some B-sides from Trent Reznor’s basement. (That’s not a knock on Melantopia — “The Fragile” was among the best records produced anywhere in 1999.)

In spite of its name, the music on “Norwegian Summers” is actually a nice pairing with our dismal winter months in western Pennsylvania. 

Stream this mood music now by searching for Melantopia on Spotify.


Symphony seeks to rebound, expand programming


JOHNSTOWN — Maestro James Blachly and board members of the Johnstown Symphony Orchestra aim to add some innovative new events in 2017.

Goals include new partnerships with young entreprenuers, with area schools and universities, and a “Mozart on the Lawn” summer series in downtown Johnstown. They hope to also bring back the July 4 Point Stadium show, a tradition that was cancelled last year.

But to do this, organizers said during a fund drive press conference at the downtown Johnstown Holiday Inn on Jan. 25, increased financial support is necessary.

“When Johnstown does well, the symphony does well,” Blachly told the audience. “And when the symphony does well, Johnstown does well.
“Let’s go forward together.”

The symphony, according to fund drive Chairwoman Karen Azer, is a year removed from a campaign that raised less than $50,000 under different leadership. The goal for 2017 is to hit $100,000 — a feat that, she said, has been done in the past.

“We are confident we can reach it and, hopefully, exceed it,” she said, adding that trustees have kicked things off with a joint $15,000 contribution.

Azer also emphasized the costs associated with hosting world-class talent. The July 4 show at the Point Stadium, she said, costs more than $20,000 when the sound system is factored in.

“We believe making a commitment to the Johnstown Symphony Orchestra is making a commitment to the community at large. It takes a village to make a campaign like this successful,” she said.

Bill Locher — Azer’s co-chair of the fund drive and an executive with Somerset Trust Co. — agreed.

“I see the importance of having a symphony orchestra here as part of the culturual fiber of the community,” he said.

Financial forms filed with the Internal Revenue Service show significant fluctuations in program service revenue in recent years for the symphony. The nonprofit generated $143,376 in this category in 2011-12, but just $93,349 in 2012-13.

That figure rebounded to $118,699 in 2013-14, only to fall again to $95,924 in 2014-15. No filings were listed online for 2015-16.

In his opening for the press event, local television anchor Marty Radovanic recalled the first time he saw Johnstown Symphony Orchestra many years ago.

“I was blown away that day,” he said. “And I feel that same way every time I see this (symphony).”

To help reach the $100,000 goal, the Johnstown Symphony Orchestra is receiving the help this year of all board members and nearly 60 volunteers to solicit contributions. The plan is to mail information brochures to previous donors, those who buy tickets and members of groups that perform with the symphony.

Proceeds from the fund drive are to help the symphony support its overall operating budget, its youth orchestra and Inclined to Sing Children’s Chorus programs. Board members also hope to continue the symphony’s annual Mother’s Day show in Somerset.

Those with questions are asked to contact the symphony office at 814-535-6738. Donations are tax-deductible, and can be made online at www.johnstownsymphony.org.


Before you discuss Milwaukee Special Reserve, you almost have to first dispel some natural misconceptions.

Believe it or not, this beer is a brand of Melanie Brewing Co., which also produces Nighthawk Premium Malt Liquor and Beer 30 Ice. (Full disclosure: Never heard of either prior to researching for this review piece). 

Milwaukee Special Reserve, Milwaukee Special Reserve Light and Milwaukee Special Reserve Ice, therefore, have no familial relation to Old Milwaukee or Milwaukee’s Best. 

This a fairly unremarkable effort. The color’s pale, the smell negligible, and finish sharp and dry. Essentially unsatisfying yet inoffensive — characteristic of the $13-per-30-pack genre.

Non-related and far more tasty Old Milwaukee will much sooner return to my fridge than this stuff. Make of that what you will.



13 songs, 64 minutes
Independent Artist (2016)

If you frequent venues such as The Castle Pub in Ebensburg, Slammin Sam’s in Moxham or The Alley near Central City, you may already know about these guys.

Based out of Nanty Glo, One Adam 12 is making sure that original rock ‘n’ roll remains alive and well on the local circuit. The group infuses radio and horror-movie samples into their punk-styled songs in a way that’s reminiscent of some of groups prominent in the 1990s. There are also similarities to Coliseum, a Kentucky-based trio whose 2013 release delivered, quite frankly, some of the genre’s best tracks since the dawn of the new millennium.

“Earworm” represents a comprehensive and ambitious effort by this group. In an age where many bands are tossing out two- or four-song EPs like candy from a Halloween float, these guys have penned a full-length with panache.

To hear what’s happening in Blacklick Valley, look them up on Spotify — or check listings at any of the venues mentioned in the lede for a live experience.