Three weeks from now, I’ll still be writing 2000 on my checks, and I’ll still have local CDs with 2000 copyrights stacked in the office. The former problem might be unavoidable, but here’s another bunch of reviews to help alleviate the latter.
At first look and listen, MeasureXMeasure brings to mind Color Me Badd, with its similar style and sound. Not that there’s anything wrong with that — as much of a punchline as CMB has unfairly become, its songs were at least the equal of today’s platinum-selling pop stars. But halfway through its first tune, which starts with smooth a cappella harmonies, MeasureXMeasure displays its secret weapon: its singers’ abilities to mimic guitars and drums with startling accuracy. Unfortunately, the group uses these special effects sparingly, relying mostly on the more traditional vocally generated bassline approach, but its slow, doo-wop tunes remain pleasant even without such enhancement. Most of MeasureXMeasure’s tunes deal with love and relationships, but this group has a deeply spiritual side, meaning it’s not likely to proclaim “I wanna sex you up.” Instead, listeners get Cardell Edwards crooning, I love you/adore you/I place no one before you in his heart-melting bass. MeasureXMeasure concludes We’re Back with an enjoyable take on “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” arranged by the group’s Jeff Smith, thus preparing to wow any hecklers at out-of-state shows who yell for the tune as soon as they discover the band hails from Kansas.
One of the area’s busiest musicians, with regular gigs at such venues as the Fairway Grill and Jardine’s Restaurant and Jazz Club, Candace Evans finally found the time to record her first CD after 10 years of public performances. Interpretations is an impressive showcase of Evans’ skills, both as a pianist (her graceful instrumental arrangement of “Since I Fell for You” is the album’s standout track) and a vocalist (her soft, sultry singing over a sparse bass-driven backdrop brings quiet power to Duke Ellington’s “Do Nothin’ Til You Hear From Me”). Evans balances her cabaret-style solo songs and her upbeat, scat-filled Kansas City jazz numbers. Interpretations also draws strength from her selection of less-than-obvious candidates for jazz makeovers, such as Hank Williams’ lament “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry.” She also transforms The Beatles’ “Norwegian Wood” and “Here, There, and Everywhere” into a charming medley that comes full circle with a return to the melody from “Wood” as the song ends.
…And His $7 Haircut
Mixing a somewhat twangy voice with infectious grooves, Stevie Steve concocts a peculiar new hybrid: cow-funk. Steve’s sense of humor keeps $7 Haircut relentlessly entertaining, whether he’s using the unusual phrase “monkey gall” in his tale of “Jealous Gorilla Love” or mocking his own drawn-out vocals by titling a tune “Time for Me to Dieeeeahoahah.” On “The Love Machine,” a satirical R&B duet featuring Jen Wildung, Steve growls about loving up and slapping down, though he says in his liner notes that he does not actually “endorse, recommend, or promote” this practice. He does, however, endorse the use of the Vibro-Slap, the hissing, clicking instrument he uses to great effect on “Girl, You Better Learn to Listen.” Stevie Steve wrote the music for 10 of the 12 tracks on the album, and the two tunes penned by drummer Detox Simpson are equally catchy and amusing. Though much of $7 Haircut is built around slap-happy bass lines and danceable rhythms, Steve proves equally satisfying when he slows the pace, as on “Grandma Blues,” when he moans, My mama does not love me/My daddy, he’s pretty lame/Not even my grandma remembers my name. That’s a bad situation, indeed, but Stevie Steve is able to laugh away his woes and help listeners do the same.
Timber and Stream
Mark Clavey sings with maximum dramatic tension, his voice quivering and wavering with unrestrained emotion. But his vocal style seems entirely appropriate, given the tragic subject matter of the traditional Irish and Scottish tunes his group Tullamore performs. Clavey’s voice blends nicely into harmonies with Mary Hanover and Sonya Baughman, both of whom also take turns singing lead. The album’s liner notes thoughtfully place each selection in historical context, explaining, for example, how “Bonnie House of Airlie” relates to the fall of Charles I. As tinwhistles, hammered dulcimers, and recorders provide the authentic-feeling backdrop, the group does justice to each ill-fated protagonist, such as the martyred couple of “Step It Out, Mary” and the newlywed who is immediately conscripted for military service in “Lowlands of Holland.” Timber and Stream isn’t ceaselessly grim: Hanover’s firm voice captures the inspirational message of “Factory Girl” and the hopeful tone of the emigration ballad “Thousands Are Sailing.” And “Timber and Stream,” which Clavey’s brother Bruce wrote as a tribute to their late father, Westley, is a tender eulogy.