Tag Archives: Music Review

CD Review – “Tapped In” by Don Lappin


TappedIn

I came to find Don Lappin through facebook and even though I follow guitar players, I wasn’t aware of Don’s playing until recently although being a fan of Michael Sweets (Stryper) I had probably heard Don before and didn’t realize it. Don is currently an Assistant Professor at the Berklee School of Music specializing in rock techniques for the guitar. Don has also played with musical greats such as Jon Finn, Chad Wackerman, Guthrie Govan and Jonathon Mover to tell you how talented he is. Don’s approach to the guitar incorporates a lot of tapping and 4 note-per-string playing which is slightly out of the norm and about as technical as I am going to get for this blog. This about the music and not his technique. You can contact Don for more information on that for you guitar nerds.

“Tapped In” is Don’s second solo release and it is full of stellar guitar work by this modern day guitar virtuoso. From the intro straight in the first song “Lappin it Up,” you know you are in for something very different for a guitar instrumental CD. I have done a few reviews of guitar instrumental CD’s and having listened to hundreds if not thousands of these guitar players, it is very hard to find one with their own distinct voice. The kind that once you hear them anywhere on any CD you know it’s them. Don has that unique voice. His playing is extremely fluid partially due to his tapping technique but also his mastery of his instrument of choice. Don is very melodic and his vamps are not your the tired typical power chord vamps that guitar players love to play over. After being sent so many bad CD’s to review, you almost dread getting another wanna be guitar shredder CD in the mail. Thankfully this is NOT one of those CD’s. There is a lot of creativity in every part of the songwriting on “Tapped In”.

The highlights on “Tapped In” for me are the songs “Lappin it Up, Captain’s Lady and A Song for Robert.” The first song “Lappin it Up” could possibly be the most original sounding guitar song I have heard in a long time, especially during the verses. It’s a fast paced groove with a different sonic texture then you’d expect and moves into some nice melodic lines and an uplifting chorus that is hooky. Laden with some tension coming out of the chorus to bring you back to earth, Don creates melodic passes that always keep the song fresh and interesting.

“Captain’s Lady” is a “pretty” song in the way Don constructs the melody from the opening. Although it’s a rock song, it has a light quality that brings you to a feeling of taking off in the chorus. One of the great things about artists like Don is you never know where the song is going to take you because they have so many tools in their arsenal. This keeps the songs fresh and invigorated which is great for longer instrumentals and can really show you that you don’t always have to have a typical ABABBABB type song to have a listener friendly tune. Great songwriters will keep you engaged at all times and Don does this very well.

“A Song for Robert” is a slow song that reminds me of the feeling I get when listening to an Eric Johnson composition. Don and Eric are completely different players and writers, but here Don achieves that same ability to create a musical picture that takes you away and creates that sonic landscape you can picture in your mind’s eye. It’s a beautiful song that will pass without you realizing it’s 9:29 long. That is effective songwriting when you get lost in the music and forget about time altogether.

“Tapped In” being Don’s first full length CD is an amazing effort with a great sense of melody phrasing and songwriting ability that is already very strong and I am sure will only get better as he puts out more CD’s. For fans of instrumental music, “Tapped In” should appeal to those that like listener friendly songs and tunes with a slight fusion feel for lack of a better term. You never really get thrown by anything here even though there are parts that shine with sparks of jazz influenced lead lines that drift from the main melody motif which again is another sign of solid songwriting.

I give “Tapped In” a solid 4 out of 5 stars. The only thing missing is that break out “Cliff’s of Dover” type song that just amazes your ears but also knocks you on your ass like nothing you have heard before.

You can purchase “Tapped In” here: http://donlappin.bandcamp.com/

You can find out more about Don Lappin here:

http://www.donlappinmusic.com/fr_home.cfm

https://twitter.com/DonLappinMusic

http://www.facebook.com/tappinlappin

http://www.youtube.com/user/TappinLappin?feature=mhee

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CD Review – “A Fool’s Melody” by Phoenix Drive


PhoenixDrive

First of all let me say that I was introduced to Phoenix Drive from their former manager through artist showcases they did around Nashville. Each time I saw the band I was very impressed not only with their very positive attitude but also their have amazing vocals, harmonies, songwriting and playing ability. This band is no joke in any shape of the word. This is probably my favorite country band I have ever seen that didn’t already have a major record deal.

The CD “A Fool’s Melody” is a tour de force of melodic hooks and strong songwriting. The band has two lead singers in Jon Scott and Felicity Combs that have a pure vocal ability and the vocal harmonies all blend superbly together. Every musician is very solid which you expect in Nashville, but live I feel this band executes better as a unit than any other and sonically their tones and EQ are always nearly perfect and that comes through on this effort as everything is crystal clear, full of energy and has “live” feel to it. The CD has nine incredible songs and none of them suffer from lack of attention in my opinion. This is a complete CD with no filler tracks like I hear from a lot of country artists. Each track is melodic and feels like everything is exactly where it is supposed to be. I don’t feel any typical “Nashville” sound emanating from this CD in either its songwriting or production, which separates it from so many other releases.

The bright spots on the CD are hard for me to pick out as all the songs are really that good, but that being said “High Time, Trouble Down, She Ain’t Coming Home and A Fool’s Melody” are the strongest singles in my estimation. This CD in no way feels like a debut CD to me. It’s mature, well thought out and knows exactly when to lay back or let it all hang out.

“High Time” is an upbeat ditty that opens with a catchy acoustic riff and then into big vocals that remind me of Alabama’s greatness. Jon Scott provides a soulful vocal quality and with Felicity providing delightful drop of singing and their harmonies shine through in a big way. The energy in this song is infectious and you will be tapping your toes all the way through.

“Trouble Down” is Felicity’s time to shine. She has a gorgeous voice that makes you want to melt. This song is a sultry tune that gives a back woods feel with the pacing and instrumentation. The impact this song has live especially when the chorus kicks in is magical and it comes through here as well. This is one of my favorite songs of 2012 by far.

“She Ain’t Coming Home” is a mid tempo song that features Jon’s lead vocals again and the verse beautifully sets up the chorus. I love how they layered Jon’s and Felicity’s vocals through out the verse sections. The chorus is a great hook that grabs you and won’t let go.

“A Fool’s Melody” features a cool guitar intro and let me tell you guitarist Chris Combs can play. Combs is definitely one of my favorite undiscovered guitar players in any genre. The drums are played with brushes with a laid back vocal from Jon and Felicity but yet the tempo is upbeat with a great guitar line underneath to separate the vocal sections.

The band rounds out with Brian Powers on bass and background vocals who is a very capable player and singer in his own right and recent addition David Rollins on drums with adds the backbone and pocket needed. David is a veteran player with great chops and presence.

This is what a modern country CD should be. It gives a nod to its classic country roots but is modern with a fresh feel and not a pop CD like Taylor Swift or what so many people have gone for to get radio success. There is no doubt this is a country band but with a strong cross over appeal. Any of the four tracks I mentioned could, should and would be radio hits if the funding was behind it. A well done musical effort that should be on every country fans iPod.

5 out of 5 stars.

You can find out more about Phoenix Drive here: www.phoenixdrive.net


Gretchen Menn “Hale Souls” CD Review


GMHaleSouls

By David Lowry

I came across Gretchen Menn from a fellow guitar players post on Facebook and was instantly intrigued by what I heard. The reason it caught my attention is the person who posted it is one of my favorite new players and I trust his judgment when it come to guitar players and music. In a world full of guitar shredders all putting out their own CD’s it is hard to find those that truly stand out with a sense of melody, strong arranging, great phrasing and most importantly their own unique sound. We have been inundated with Yngwie Malsteen clones over the last 25 years so the guitar players that have worked hard to have their own voice are extremely rare to find and very gratifying to listen to usually. Gretchen has accomplished that feat in spades. On her first debut CD “Hale Souls,” Gretchen has managed to do what many guitar instrumentalists fail too, she doesn’t sound like a clone of anyone else.

Gretchen has added a mix of different guitar instrumentations on “Hale Souls” as which is a nice change of pace. It’s not in your face guitar the whole time; there is a violin instrumental called “Walking Shadow,” and acoustic diddy “Fast Crowd,” and a classically inspired song “Fading.” Gretchen has thrown rock, fusion, jazz, flatpicking, world music and classical all into this CD to give us a very well rounded effort and a strong look at how incredibly talented this musician is. Strong rock cuts like “Scrap Metal,” “Oleo Strut,” and “Valentino’s Victory Lap” burst out the gate with great feel, phrasing and just enough technique to quench us guitar instrumental freaks loves need for speed.

Gretchen has her own signature sound that harkens back to the early prog greats and a modern edge that makes it hard to classify her. Gretchen arrives with a very strong debut CD and shows great promise to make a name for herself early in her career to achieve the household name status so many of her guitar peers have sought for many years. “Hale Souls” doesn’t hit on all marks like the legendary “Tones” by Eric Johnson or Michael Lee Firkins self-titled CD does on it’s first time out but it’s an amazing first effort and Gretchen has let the guitar world know she his here to stay and ready to take it over.  I find myself listening to it over and over again so I’ll rate it a solid 8 out of 10 stars and eagerly anticipate the next Gretchen Menn CD. This is a very brave and bold debut CD and it should be a part of every guitar enthusiast’s music collection.

Look for great things from this musician! You can find out more about Gretchen at http://www.gretchenmenn.com