Anyone wondering what to expect from local singer-songwriter Amanda Cevallos’ debut album need only read her helpful list of influences: Natalie Merchant, Tracy Chapman, Norah Jones, Sade, Selena, Linda Rondstadt, etc. Cevallos also claims some country inspiration, but this earnest effort is full of the docile harmonies, soothing six-string strums and introspective lyrics popular with the Lilith Fair contingent.
Cevallos certainly has the pipes to pull off the imitation. Her restrained refrain is soothing and straightforward, never trying to reach for unnecessary trickery or showmanship. The arrangements on Rainy Day match her vocal simplicity: Corn Mash guitarist/pianist Casey Schaefer helps fill out what’s otherwise a showcase for Cevallos.
The one area where Rainy Day feels all wet, however, is the repetitious writing. Two songs specifically address the singer’s literal interior (“Dancing on the Inside” is one track title; she’s “raining inside” on “Golden Leaves”); two songs simplify love as “crazy”; and two more cover quiet time (she’s “Sitting there lying on the bed alone” in “Jose Guadalupe” and there again—“Now I’m lying on my bed all alone”—on “How Could You Let Me Say Goodbye”). Some variation—both in sound and lyrics—would be welcome next time, but with Rainy Day Cevallos displays something more immediately important: enough raw talent to deserve a follow-up. (Skylar Browning)
Amanda Cevallos plays a CD-release party at The Loft Thur., Oct. 19, at 9 PM. $3.
Chin Up, Meriwether!
Chin Up, Meriwether! is a one-man wallop of jagged electric guitar and nearly tuneless singing. Out East, the first album produced by Missoulian and former My Pal Ghosty member Peter Dolan under the Chin Up, Meriwether! moniker, is an effort infused with anger, tempered by nasal delivery and full of fanciful redirection.
Last year’s Higgins Avenue hate crime fuels “Wally’s Hardcore”—a song that could have easily turned maudlin but becomes an exhortation instead, concluding: “So just draw like you dance because our only deadline is industrial collapse.” “7-9 Day Trial Period” wryly closes the album with an address to a woman professing love for a gay man, who rewards her with four verses of indulgence but ends with the admission that “I love you the way that I can, just not the way I loved your ex-boyfriend.”
Out East’s seven songs are crammed into 20 minutes that are neither morose nor just a lark, but rather sincere and endearing with an electrified edge, evoking the lo-fi folk-punk sensibility of Daniel Johnston. It delivers just the sort of dark and deft humor that might posthumously encourage suicidal Meriwether Lewis to keep his spirits high. (Jason Wiener)
Live at Flanagan’s
One obvious prerequisite to any live album is that it sound, well, live. Some of what that entails is being able to hear the screaming ninnies swarming the stage, the overblown introduction that kicks off the show and some long-form jams that play to the crowd. At the very least, I want to hear some witty banter between songs.
The Oregon reggae quintet Everyday Prophets’ double-disc Live at Flanagan’s, recorded earlier this year in Whitefish, is lacking all of the above—there’s no intro, few indulgent jams and almost no evidence of any crowd whatsoever. You can hear a few whistles here, some golf claps there, but otherwise it’s got all the ambiance of a city council meeting. And when lead singer Aaron Green does speak after songs he offers up such gems as “Little Peter Tosh there. Love it.” In the band’s defense, things get a bit more lively toward the middle of the second disc—maybe the level of a West Broadway debate—but even when the ski bums finally arrive it’s far short of electric.
The set list is full of Everyday Prophets originals and two covers (Tosh’s “Stop that Train” and a contrived rendition of The Police’s “Walking on the Moon”). Green’s delivery is solid throughout and the band is tight, but they didn’t bring anything to Flanagan’s they couldn’t have found in a Portland studio. (Skylar Browning)
The Devil You Know
New Door Records
Todd Snider tosses a couple of rambunctious numbers reminiscent of his early days with the Nervous Wrecks into the mix on his eighth album, The Devil You Know. Mostly, though, his latest effort—the first since Snider moved to Universal subsidiary New Door Records—remains the same showcase for wily songsmithing as his albums for John Prine’s Oh Boy label.
While opening roadhouse rockers “If Tomorrow Never Comes” and “Lookin’ for a Job” are far from insufferable, they also aren’t Snider at his storytelling best. Much better, and truer to form, is “You Got Away With It (A Tale of Two Fraternity Brothers),” a talking blues recollection of privileged youth spent pounding hippies; it slyly reveals the narrator as an old buddy of our chief executive, now shorn of his pranksterism but with friends awestruck as ever over the big guy’s ability to escape accountability. Other such animated tales on The Devil You Know recount a pool hustler’s hotel room reunion with a high-school sweetheart turned hooker (“Just Like Old Times”) and a crook’s-eye view of an amateurish mugging (“The Highland Street Incident”).
The Devil You Know holds better than half a dozen stories strange enough to have been fiction, but offbeat enough to have wound up in the mind of a musician instead. That doesn’t account for everything here, but it’s enough to merit repeated listens. (Jason Wiener)