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Music > Grapeshot

Ready, aim... fire

Heartwarmer or beer coaster? We let you know in as few words as possible.

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Grapeshot ARCHIVES

 

Published 11/8/2006

Let's shoot them all at a wall and see what sticks, what's sweet, what stinks and where they fall. "Grapeshot" is a new, periodic feature that rounds up local music releases, gives them a listen and then gives them a grade. Sure, they're a little shorter than our regular reviews. But we're trying to maximize space, and give everyone a taste. From a rappin' granny to throwback metal, jam bands in hemp cargo shorts and Hank Williams on a sax, here's our take on 28 local releases.

Grandma Rap
G-Mommy Tales
self-released
B

Old-school, Run-DMC-ish raps that work like a 14-track cautionary tale. Harlem-born Detroiter Grandma Rap and emcee Big Whillz cloak their raps in a sometimes-irksome preachiness that's offset with pocketbook street philosophizing. To wit: "Never thought I'd end up in the big house ... Mother and father had problems, gee whiz." Best cuts: "You Ain't Hittin' None of This," "Hindsight is 20/20," "Rosa Parks." —BS

Lonesome Tumblers
Race Music for the Long-Distance Runner
self-released
A

The Lonesome Tumblers' lineup revolves, and migrates between three states. But it includes locals like Arlo Pickens and Scotty Karate, and no matter who's in the band at any point, they absolutely kill. Blurry psychedelia, unbound guitar freakouts, and frayed rock songs coming out of some backwater between the 1960s and indie rock from the early '90s. —JTL

Andrew Bishop
Hank Williams Project
Envoi
A+

Hear that lonesome postmodern whippoorwill? Ann Arbor saxophonist Bishop makes it sound utterly natural to take liberties with the bard of the country highway. Bishop alternately plays Williams tunes (and originals inspired by him) for laughs and for angst; he jazzes things up and slows them down to Williams-haunted dirges. —WKH

Queen Bee
Girl on Top
Hot Pants Records
B-

Smells like porn and femdom strap-ons. Looks like Cherry Curry sightings and Whiskey a Go-Go pay-to-play nights. Sounds like hulking lines on smoggy freeways; car horns, skids, crashes and DUI's. Queen Bee, as she froths here, has got shit for your, um, head. Queenbeedetroit.com. —BS

Sheila Landis and Rick Matle
Blues in the Night
SheLan
A

An emphasis on bluesy and rootsy material on this collection, half new and half culled from the last dozen years of work by the vocal-guitar duo. They do "Fever" and Willie Nelson's "Crazy," but there's still room for whiplash hard bop, some jazz-meets-poetry material and a rockin' take on "At Last." Landis' 21st album is the place to start if you've been sleeping on this lightning bolt of a singer and her simpatico seven-string guitarist. —WKH

Frank N Dank
Xtended Play
Chisel Sound
A+

It was in limbo for a couple of years thanks to label foot-dragging, but Frank N Dank's first full-length is worth the wait. With production contributions from OhNo, the late J. Dilla, and DJ Kemo, and Frank N Dank's stoned confidence leading the way, this is Detroit hip hop at its finest — unpredictable, soulful, sarcastic and not cocky but proud. —JTL

Kelz
three-song demo
self-released
B-

Apparently, 17-year-old rapper Kelz entertains Detroit elementary and middle-school kiddies to much fanfare with his puppy-dog Usher soul and an uncanny ability to rap like old-school west side Detroit. The Em' adoration is apparent, and Kelz articulates well the everyday Motor City kid looking to get some action on. There's even teen-beat crunk! Makes you want to give the kid a Dutchie rub. kelzworld.com. —BS

Wolfbait
Warrior Kings
Scorched Earth
B-

The blogs keep saying heavy metal is back, but if you ask Wolfbait, they'll say it never left. Warrior Kings rumbles like Maiden, rhymes "dark" with "rock," sometimes sounds like the Cult, and always makes you want to bash mailboxes with a bat. They're also another Wolf band. Local heshers, your Saturday night has arrived. —JTL

Roadside Zoo
The Breakdown
self-released
D

Any bar in Anytown, USA, on a Tuesday night, near some college. There's always some dancefloor asshole doing the faux-cosmic, arm-flailing, on-one-leg-twirling hippie dance when the band covers moe. —BS

GT Hymnself
Midwest Side Story
Black Sea
B

With top-shelf production to match GT's feisty flow, Midwest Side moves quickly and keeps the skits and filler to a minimum, and sticks around with hooks and a fresh mix of thoughtfulness and the usual boasts. From "Dimes Nicks": "I make Michigan anthems/Pan Am and Miami/With Michigan tags on the Grand Am." —JTL

Gayelynne McKinney
It's About Time
self-released
B-

Part of the legendary musical McKinney clan and a member of Straight Ahead, drummer-keyboardist McKinney delivers a perfectly pleasant smooth jazz disc, including covers of "Makin' Love in the Rain" and "Don't Worry Be Happy." Then there's the curve ball of the wailin' title track. Session players include violinist Regina Carter and Cassius Richmond. —WKH

Drunken Barn Dance
Demo
self-released
B+

"Let's drink to the end of dreaming days/Ghosts make better partners/Don't mind if you're broken." Yow, now that's a line. DBD is Scott Sellwood, of Brandon Waird's band and on-again, off-again Saturday Looks Good To Me. This wonderful collection of 13 airy, acoustic-driven songs incorporate footstomps, well-timed sleigh bells, hints of ambient distortion and the occasional harmonic soundscape that'd give Daniel Lanois wood. It's warm and willful; part back-porch melancholy, part open-road longing. Send an e-mail to drunkenbarndance@comcast.net. —BS

Breathing Underwater
Breathing Underwater
Breathing Underwater, Inc
C-

BU deserves kudos for execution, this four-song EP sounds major-label ready. But it's just what the world needs, another quintet of mass-produced suburban dudes with hair-product locks playing a kind of soft power-chord rock (stippled with piano and strings) whose record collections don't run any deeper than Radiohead. Blah. —BS

Cowboy Messiah
American Zen
self-released
C

There's a promising trend toward this sort of band locally; like Porchsleeper, Cowboy Messiah makes the sort of straight-ahead rock that's live performance-friendly and made better by drinking. Maybe it should be called beer-core. Cheers. —JTL

The Come Ons
Stars
MoPop
B-

Cool and hazy, just like the in-motion black-and-white cover art. The Come Ons' fourth full-length fades back from the dancefloor a bit, but has a great sashay to it, particularly on "Let Me Be" and the incredible "Another Day," which is what driving through a deserted Detroit at 5 in the morning sounds like. It sounds like Tricky's first album, if he had grown up in Corktown. —JTL

The Midnight Thud
Pistol
Galexy 10 Records
D

Does the red-hued cover of this four-song EP sport a heart with rising flames that's flanked by two pistols, one inscribed with the word "heartbreaker" and the other "lifetaker"? You bet. Does it sound like a sweaty, man-tit mook-fest mining a Stooges (yawn) thud motherload? Yup. Does the singer yelp, "Your love is a pistol/pointed right at my heart"? Of course! Do you want to point a pistol straight at your temple after a quick listen? Uh-huh. —BS

Verb
The Verb Hip-Hop EP
self-released
C-

Matt ("X-It") and Mario ("TexT") are two white guys pissed because they've been stepped on. But they're unwavering in their intent to express how they're going to "make it in the music business." See, the "R" in Verb "is for the realness that we spittin'." Got it? —BS

Aretha Franklin
Live at the Fillmore
Rhino
A

You ain't heard "Love the One Your With" until you've heard the "Sweethearts of Soul" soaring on top, the Memphis Horns chirping underneath, and Franklin barreling down the middle. Culled from three Fillmore nights in early 1971, you get the original sweat-drenched album (including the Billy Preston-led band, with Ray Charles guesting) plus a bonus disc with a tweaking version of Jimmy Webb's lovely "Mixed-Up Girl" and an alternate, ass-shaking gospel reading of "Eleanor Rigby." Goose bumps. —BS

Uné
Uné
Native
C-

Detroiter Uné moved to Cali before recording this debut, a slick (sometimes too slick) slice of contemporary R&B with flecks of jazz and soft-toned hip hop (the latter mostly on the tribute to cruising "Hit Da Shaw"). Uné's rich singing voice is the standout here, and his natural, understated sound livens up some of the more same-y arrangements. —JTL

The Nice Device
Let the Nightlife Down
self-released
B+

Nice Device exists in the same indie pop for sophisticates spot as the Cardigans, with keyboards whirring behind electric guitar and Alicia Gbur's push-pull vocals out front. (Innocent? Dangerous? You decide.) There's some new wave influence here too — it's cool when the dudes come in on backup in the chorus of "Dinosaur." —JTL

Avatars
Never a Good Time
No Fun Records
B-

There's a sexy-but-innocent swing here that you never get from the band live. Too-cute singer Mariah Cherem might not have the vox to front a proper rock 'n' roll band, but the big, Derwood Andrews-like guitars, Bo Diddley beats, shout-along girl-group refrains and John Speck production give this a winning sheen. Too, the title track is a three-minute thing of pop beauty, down to the ending chorus key change. Shit, even tin-eared Little Steven oughtta be pimping this shit on his fatigued radio show. —BS

Rescue
Paranoid
Suburban Sprawl
C+

Released in a gorgeous paperboard package that's apparently limited, Paranoid happily darts between styles, trying on Pavement as an influence before detouring into vintage 4AD and back toward conventional indie rock tarted up with cello or piano. Rescue's so scatterbrained that Paranoid doesn't really work as an album. But as a package of great ideas, it's amazing. —JTL

The Fabulous Peps
Detroit, Michigan: Original D-Town Records 1965-1968
Soul-Tay-Shus
A+

Eighteen shoulda-been hits from a Detroit trio weaned in the Black Bottom. It's amped up on horn blips, serpentine bass, waaahck-aaahck guitar, pop melody, killer suits, perfected coifs and the dance-riot soul-din of a fading boomtown choking on its own exhaust but celebrated in the midnight hour at the Twenty Grand. There's even some Memphis and Booker T. & the MG's backing! Nonstop essential. —BS

PAS/CAL
Dear Sir EP
Le Grand Magistry
A+

Sticky-sweet like the first kiss under twitching neon after six beers, this EP cracks the code of Pop Mastery in the same way, say, Jellyfish or even Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart did. Shit, Jon Brion could don PAS/CAL's songcraft like lay-around sweat pants. And if "Little Red Radio" isn't a huge fucking hit by Christmas, we give up on our fellow man and resign to the fact the world is designed for other people. —BS

Keith Vreeland Trio
Ask Me Now
Tree Studios
B+

Graceful and intimate in a post-Bill Evans Trio sort of way, pianist Vreeland, bassist John Dana and drummer Renell Gonsalves deserve to settle into a long residency in a quiet club with a rapt audience. Their repertoire is especially well chosen, from the ubiquitous "Good-bye Pork Pie Hat" to less-well-known pieces like Tony Williams' "Pee Wee." —WKH

Various Artists
Ypsisongs
Cerberus
B+

If you're into classifying your hipsters, Ypsi is supposed to be where the enlightened ones live. Or something. Jokes aside, this burg-celebrating comp is an agreeable mix of folk (Annie Palmer), alt-country (Vailcode), deliciously manic metalcore (Coke Dick Motorcycle Awesome with "Ypsilanti Jaxxxy"), and fractured-pop home recordings (Leaving Rouge). Plenty of local color and paths to follow. —JTL

Mike Khoury, Brian Mackie, Michael Welch
Live at the Stardust Café
Detroit Improvisation
B-

Seems Detroit violinist Khoury happened to be in Orlando, Fla., on business and put out feelers for free improv types. The results (with percussionist Welch and Sam Rivers protégé Mackie on sax) are impressive. They play (apparently) without knowing where they'll end up. If that's your bag, you won't regret tagging along for 40 minutes. —WKH

Cotton Museum
Beautiful Golden Fur
Tasty soil
B

It's that precise moment when you question the soundness of your own existence, your own survival, and every personal horizon is lost. It other words, when the daybreak greets your coke crash. But how CM managed to capture that "feeling" through, basically, unorganized electronic noise and hum is remarkable. Great stuff, truly. (See cottonmuseum.tastysoil.com.) —BS

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