Tag Archives: Bruce Siwy


Love it or hate it, Guinness is one unique and iconic beer.

From it’s coffee-like taste to its implanted plastic widget, this Irish brew will leave a lasting impression. Guinness Blonde is no exception.

Billed as a “light” blonde lager, the first question about this beer would be its integrity. A taste too generic or watery would immediately discredit this Americanized brew as a true member of the Guinness family.

Fortunately, that was not the case.

More ruddy than blonde and heavy on hops, this spicy treat should appeal to a wide range of craft-loving beer drinkers. It reminded me a little of Smithwick’s, another Guinness product.

This is the kind of beer that should earn new customers of the Guinness brand without alienating the brewer’s loyal base.




He’s writing and producing albums like a career musician. It’s a good start for someone who can’t yet legally drive.

Fascinated with rock ‘n’ roll since he was 7 years old, Jake Dryzal is dreaming big to make his passion his livelihood someday.

The 15-year-old Windber resident has worked the past five months to write
and record his first album under the Pallor moniker, a project he described as an experimental combination of acoustic, punk rock and heavy metal music.

“I love making music because it’s just a way to show how I feel,” he said. “And I want other people who feel the same way to appreciate it.”

Dryzal — son of Dan and Jodi Dryzal, and brother to Dana and Bradley Dryzal — has been playing guitar since he was 8 and writing music since he was 10. He is a former student of the Greater Johnstown School of Music.

For about three years he was recording under the name Blue Navy, performing at venues including Ace’s and Woodside Bar & Grill. He said he gave his new musical project a new name because the songs were a little angrier, comparing the sound to bands such as My Bloody Valentine, Suicide and American Football.

“Blue Navy is a lot softer, sad and slower in pace,” he said. “Both (projects) dealt with things I wanted to happen in life, but never came to me.”

Most of the drumming for the Pallor album was done by 20-year-old Richland Township resident Kevin Pribulsky using Acoustica Beatcraft software. There are “live” drums on only one track.

To record the guitar and bass parts for the album, Dryzal used a simple flip camcorder. He played mostly a Fender Stratocaster through a Marshall, employing mostly alternative tunings, calling them simpler and more distinctive than standard.

He said he enjoyed the experience, and hopes to grow as a musician, aspiring to eventually earn a music degree in college.

“Follow your heart,” he said. “Write what you want to write about and it will turn out amazing.”


Wheat beer lovers will swear by the Blue Moon brand. Though I don’t count myself among them, Harvest Pumpkin Ale was a pretty successful experiment.

This stuff isn’t real sweet, hoppy or heavy. If it’s strong on anything, it’s the allspice and nutmeg — which isn’t a bad thing in this case. Those flavors meld well with the beer’s inherent wheat base.

Best way to put it: This is a safe choice for someone hoping to experiment with pumpkin beer. It probably won’t repulse or knock you out of the ballpark. But it’s a decent beer, and a six-pack won’t drain your Christmas savings (unlike some of the higher-end pumpkin-flavored brews).

Next month’s reviews will feature winter-themed beers. Check in to find out which ones are stocking worthy.



‘12 Gems’, 14 songs, 50:34, JL Records

He calls it a “labor of love and a rewarding experience.” Just one listen and you’ll have plenty of reasons to believe him.

“12 Gems,” a collection of Neil Diamond covers by local musician Walt Churchey, is a worthy homage to the famous soft rock songwriter. Though Churchey’s voice isn’t a Diamond replica, his performance is on key and tactfully executed.

The infectious energy of “You Got To Me” and classic “Sweet Caroline” are the highlights on this release. And partner-in-crime Jackie Kopco deserves credit for her vocal contributions.

One added surprise: “12 Gems” is in fact a 14-song album. How’s that for a twist?

If you’re a fan of Diamond, it’d be worthwhile to purchase this CD or catch Churchey live at one of the several venues he frequents across the Johnstown area.



I’ll admit I had a lot of concerns before I first tasted a pumpkin beer last month. It sounded too sweet, too weird and too anti-beer for me to like.

In other words, I didn’t think it would live up to the hype — just one more doomed trend, not unlike Zima or Sizzlean (the infamously terrible fake bacon).

Had I first tried McKenzie’s, all these fears would’ve been realized.

Though I should have known better because of its cider billing, this stuff was way too much like leftover Halloween candy. Someone told me you should put cinnamon on the rim of your glass to counteract the sweetness, but this didn’t help. I almost let the stuff go warm on the table.

McKenzie’s pumpkin cider will go over best with fans of wine coolers and carbonated drinks ending in “-arita.” Beer lovers, steer clear.



I played the saxophone in elementary school.

The experience was painful and short-lived. That being said, I know a good sax solo when I hear one — and the riff in “Baker Street” is one of the best in rock music.

The song is part of Gerry Rafferty’s 1977 album “City to City.” The sax player, Raphael Ravenscroft, told U.K.’s The Telegraph that he was paid 27 pounds for the work. He died at age 60 in October.

“Baker Street” is followed by my second-favorite Rafferty song, “Right Down the Line.” Both are of the chillaxin’ variety.

They are good tunes for after a long day of work.

“Baker Street” likely made Rafferty, who died in 2011, a lot of money.

Ravenscroft never even collected his small pittance. The check bounced, according to the report.

(Best advice for aspiring young saxophonists: Get your parents ear plugs — for at least the first six weeks.)



Self-titled, Eight tracks, 60 minutes, No label

In Pallor’s self-titled debut, Jake Dryzal shows that even heartbreak can be a beautiful thing.

The Windber teen’s thematically melancholy release combines the deadpan, achingly earnest vocal delivery of ‘80s art rock with lo-fi drum machine and acoustic sounds of ‘90s industrial. Though maybe not a concept album, the music is painted with poetry centered on themes of loss
and reverie.

Dryzal shows a real knack for building musical drama and ambiance, taking a measured, minimalist approach
that would lend well to movie soundtracks. His songwriting style takes a principled turn against the grain of “radio rock,” often dropping into self-absorbed stretches of moody instrumentalism.

It’s worth noting that Dryzal, at 15, is still too young to drive a car. With the type of vision he demonstrates on the Pallor release, it will be interesting to see how he progresses musically over the next several years.


Johnny Rails Pumpkin Ale

If the thought of pumpkin beer turns your stomach, don’t bother reading this section for the next month.
In honor of pumpkin pie season, it’ll be nothing pumpkin beer reviews throughout November. It’s not that these are the greatest inventions of all time — but, as seasonals, at least they’re something different.
Johnny Rails Pumpkin Ale brings a nice blend of nutmeg and allspice. Unlike the Red Hook pumpkin porter, it doesn’t bury the “pumpkin” part. And unlike my preconceived notion of a pumpkin beer, it wasn’t a mouthful of cinnamon and sugar.
The best asset of this beer was its balance. Johnny Rails walks a tightrope between “heavy” and “light,” making it an intriguing Thanksgiving treat — flavor-filled and drinkable, even on a full stomach.
In other words, it’d make for a nice post-turkey dessert.


Shane Speal’s Snake Oil Band ‘Holler!’

17 songs, 59 minutes; C. B. Gitty Records (2014)

With song titles such as “Judy Got a Booty” and “When She Gets Drunk, She Gets Horny,” Shane Speal’s Snake Oil Band is obnoxious, foul-mouthed and ill-mannered.
And those are just high points.
Of the 17 tracks on this release, “Strung Out, Drunk and Busted (And There’s a Body in the Trunk)” was maybe the best. This greasy tongue-and-cheek tale of murder and deceit will bounce around between your ears hours after listening.
The band also serves up a haunting, deliciously woozy saloon-style rendition of Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean.” While it’s a far cry stylistically from the original, the soulful vocal performance helps make this version a surprisingly powerful one.
There are plenty of good songs and great laughs delivered on “Holler!” But this uproarious and irreverent style seems as though it may translate even better in a live and loose setting. 
The lasting impression of this group is a talented bunch who have lots of fun and don’t take themselves too seriously. And ain’t nothin’ wrong with that.



And I always thought this craze was limited to the ladies’ obsession with flavored autumn lattes.

Prior to Red Hook’s Out Of Your Gourd Pumpkin Porter, I’d never tried a pumpkin beer.

Really, I didn’t even know they existed — until the good people at the local bars and beer distributors started telling me to buy this stuff up quick because they can’t keep it on shelves.

I’d give Red Hook’s attempt a split decision. It was thick and clean-tasting, with the pumpkin-spice flavor no more than an aftertaste.

I think the makers leaned more heavily on “porter” than “pumpkin” with this one. Which was fine with me.

So if you’re into full-bodied porters, you should appreciate this one.

If you were expecting a sweet latte, keep looking.



Nine songs, 39 minutes
333DISCS (2014)

After playing his second show at VOMA this year, Hiroya Tsukamoto should be feeling pretty much at home in the
Flood City.

One listen to his newly released album, “Places,” and it’s easy to see why the venue’s organizers wanted him back.

The Kyoto, Japan native is a classically trained Berklee graduate who plays the guitar and banjo with a virtuoso’s flair. On “Places,” he shows off some new licks with tact and grace.

Stylistically, Tsukamoto sounds to me like a Latin-inspired Andy McKee (except that he has a separate drum track instead of slapping the guitar’s body during his finger- picking brilliance).

His compositions on “Places” are soft and sweet lullabies for the adult set.

The highlights include “Confluencia” and “Mountain Song,” booth soothing jams with interesting play between guitar and drums.

To hear a true talent at work, give Tsukamoto a listen — or, better yet, catch him live.