taking a listen
reviews of local & state music CDs
SONS OF BILL — One Town Away
Remember the first time you ever heard a Hank Williams, Sr. song? There’s an inconsolable and brokendown feeling that arrives hand-in-hand with spinning a record like Moanin’ the Blues, yet also immediate and relatable without being crassly populist. Charlottesville country quintet Sons of Bill (www.sonsofbill.com) travels that same road with their second album One Town Away, stopping to shake hands with the likes of Townes Van Zandt and Steve Earle along the way. The album’s live tracking by producer Jim Scott (Wilco, Kathleen Edwards) gives it a deeply intimate feel, as if it were a live concert taking place in your own living room while maintaining the integrity of a faultless studio arrangement. The album opens with the solemn country ballad “Joey’s Arm,” though a strong run of rock-inflected tunes thereafter lend it a gentle nudge toward mainstream acceptance. Sam Wilson’s guitar refrain gives “The Rain” and Escovedo-like punch, before the bleary-eyed pedal steel on the title track is capable of reducing the listener to a sobbing mess. The subtlety of Wilson’s voice is pleasantly contrasted by the slightly more pronounced twang of younger brother James from song to song, giving One Town Away the kind of top-to-bottom strength that makes you wish that all country music was made this way.
Sons of Bill will perform at the Garage on Thursday.
100 YORKTOWN — Rocking You Harder and Longer
With the boldest of claims made in the title of their debut EP, 100 Yorktown (www.myspace. com/100yorktown) might have wanted to save such a boastful title for their first full-length. Rocking You Harder and Longer delivers on its initial promise — it’s heavy and uncompromising without being abrasive — but most would dare say that 19 minutes isn’t sufficient time to be truly “rocked.” Taken at face value, you have a quick hitter in the vein of early Three Doors Down; a squarely populist alt-rock effort driven by accessible lyrical hooks and muscular guitar riffs, but with an adventurous bent that sets it apart. Jordan Edwards robust vocals hint at a Scott Weiland influence, while lead guitarist Chris Smith derives his languorous wail from a predominantly ’80s metal origin. The lyrics are heavy on metaphor and simile, like “Gravity” where Edwards opines “you’re like gravity/you always let me down.” Not the most profound of association, but it works well within the song’s greater context as bassist Rajesh Bangdiwala drives songs like “Breakneck” with feverish bass lines that are precisely reflected in the title. It’s a sturdy effort and while Rocking You Harder and Longer certainly aims to satisfy, it has to do so with girth rather than length.
100 Yorktown will open for Sponge at Greene Street Club on Saturday.