As I write this, it has been one year since the passing of one of America’s greatest songwriters, Tom Petty. It’s appropriate, then, that I’m writing a review of another “songwriter’s songwriter.” And, like Petty, Kevin Gordon’s formative years were spent in the American South. […]
Doing due diligence on Ben Driscoll — whose name I know mostly from live performances on KUNI FM — I turned up an article from 2015 in the Cedar Rapids Gazette that calls him a “former musician” and describes his Cedar Rapids woodworking business. Lucky for us, news of his demise as a musician is greatly exaggerated. […]
Listening to Night Milk, the latest album from Iowa City’s Younger (recorded at Magic Barn Studios, produced by Pete Becker and released by Little Village) I’m reminded of a time in the ’90s when it seemed that women everywhere were picking up guitars and making powerful and edgy new music. Record labels were signing them as fast as they could, and bands like the Breeders, Belly, Juliana Hatfield, Courtney Love’s band Hole, Veruca Salt, L7 and Garbage climbed the charts and were fixtures on video music channels. […]
The Commanders’ newest EP, Odd Disasters, is somehow simultaneously a tight, clean collection of succinct musical ideas and a vast, sprawling commentary on the current state of the human condition and how we got here. […]
In April, KUNI’s Mark Simmet interviewed Des Moines Blues Rock trio the Other Brothers, who had just released their third album, Born Out Of Tune. He brought up the question of what to call their brand of music and decided it was classic rock. The conversation turned to how classic rock has gotten a kind of stigma based on the typical limited radio station song rotation, but that the sound of that music is making another comeback. Guitars are cool again and bands like the Other Brothers are are getting deserved attention from it.
AJ Worden’s Slouching Towards Tomorrow is inescapably tied to musical touchstones of the ’60s and ’70s, particularly Lou Reed and the Velvet Underground. It is wrong to say that his music is derivative of those influences, even as the listener can’t escape noticing them. Like Borges’ poet Menard, his project is a fresh creation in a new context; instead of 1965 New York, Worden lives in 2018 Iowa.
Will Whitmore has been performing and making albums since the turn of the millennium, always faithful to his own idea of what makes a song that sticks. He writes songs that are simple and devastating. His voice, as it did even when he was in his 20s, sounds not just older than his years, but as though it comes from a different century. […]
The Tramps’ latest album, Wild Water, returns with the southern rock-influenced formula the band is known for — dual Allman Brothers-style guitar leads, searing slide, driving drums and lots of groove. Partridge draws from his small town Iowa experiences, yet delivers songs I think can resonate with anyone. But, while I wouldn’t call Wild Water a political record per se, it’s clear that Partridge has had some hot button issues on his mind. […]
In the bio for Eastern Iowa jazz trio Thrio, they describe themselves as “chord-less” — a somewhat clumsy way to explain that the band, as a trio of sax, bass and drums, doesn’t incorporate any instruments that play chords (keyboards or guitars for example). This isn’t a new idea for jazz — in fact, Sonny Rollins is credited with pioneering this configuration in 1957, which in turn influenced sax-led trios for decades to follow. In an interview with The New York Times in 2007, Rollins said that the lack of piano allowed him freedom to play outside of a song structure typically dictated by it.
Mitch McAndrew, both the vocal and songwriting chops behind Young Charles, comes across on the band’s debut, Armageddon Party Dress, as a jazz composer who desperately wants to be a folk singer (with a slight addiction to pop melancholy). The genres fuse and break, weave in and out of each other in ways that evoke the mid- to late-’70s years when Joni Mitchell and Billy Joel were contemporaries. […]
Handing Off The Egg, the latest EP from TIRES, represents a developing and distilling of the Des Moines band’s sound. The washes of synths added seem trendy and hip in light of the current fascination with ’80s music — and the songs beg to be used as soundtracks. […]
Rest Heavy, the newest release from Iowa native Chad Elliott, opens with an arpeggiated piano riff and cymbal crash before launching into a leaned-back, eyes-closed, soulful-howl gospel-blues tune of which Sam Cooke would… […]