Music Review >> Stephen Kellogg and The Sixers – ‘Gift Horse’

Last month, Stephen Kellogg and The Sixers (Kit “Goose” Karlson, Brian “Boots” Factor, and Sam “Steamer” Getz) released their fifth studio album, Gift Horse. It’s the band’s second release with Vanguard Records.

“There’s the old saying, ‘Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth,’ which translated as showing appreciation for what you have,” Kellogg commented in the band’s press release.

“That’s exactly what this record’s about – appreciation that I have a job right now in 2011, with all that’s going on economically in our country; appreciation for my family, because there’s nothing that I value more; and appreciation of America in general.”

Produced by Mark Weinberg, the songs on Gift Horse have a classic rock, almost Americana kind of vibe about them. You can tell by just how these songs were written from personal anecdotes. The entire album plays out like a collective book of stories on life and family.

Kellogg has taken his storyteller writing style and really captured moments within his life and turned them into meaningful music. This is demonstrated on tracks like the uptempo “1993,” which is the story of how he and wife met and fell in love and “Noelle, Noelle,” which is written in admiration of his daughter, which is probably the sweetest song on the record. In songs such as “Gravity” and “Roots and Wings,” Kellogg sings of lessons learned from his family.

Gift Horse’s lead single, “Gravity,” is an upbeat tune about enjoying and appreciating the life you have now, instead of worrying about what lies ahead. I like that the arrangment really fits the song; coming off lighthearted and fun and truly drawing that picture of leaving your woes at the door and enjoying what’s right in front of you.

“Roots and Wings” is one of my favorites on the record. The song speaks to doing the best you can with your kids, but when the time comes to let them off to explore the world, you handle the change as best you can. Arrangement-wise, the song has a very anthem feel to it; I can see it being a great track to hear performed live.


Music Review >> Trevor Hall – ‘Everything Everytime Everywhere’

Everything Everytime Everywhere, the latest album from Vanguard Records recording artist, Trevor Hall is set to be released this week.

The 11-track album was produced by Jimmy Messer and boasts such musicians as Aaron Dugan, who has longtime played for Matisyahu (guitar), Brian Lang (bass), and Aaron Sterling (drums).

Influenced by his musical heroes Ben Harper and Bob Marley, Hall showcases his ability to write songs about life, love and community set to pop/rock/reggae beats that should appeal to the masses.

Everything Everytime Everywhere is the follow-up to Hall’s self-titled album, which was released back in 2009.

“With the last album, I was exploring more,” Hall said in a press release. “I was going through a struggle with myself, and all that grittiness came out. With this one, I knew exactly what I wanted to do. I had much greater conviction.”

Look no further than Hall’s lead single, “Brand New Day,” to find the conviction he speaks of. The pop-rock anthemic tune speaks of letting go and embracing the present. The uplifting song is a great track to lead off with, because it paves the way for Hall’s lyrics to leave their musical message.

Standout tracks on Everything Everytime Everywhere include “Fire,” “Te Amo, and my personal favorite, “Dr. Suess.” What I like in particular about these three tracks is that they highlight the the vocal versatility of Hall’s voice. There’s a unique quality to his voice that truly separates him from other male singers today.

“Fire” is one of those tracks that as soon as you turn it on, it’s gonna make you want to move. The overall feel to the track is rock with reggae flavor thrown in for good measure. Cherine Anderson lends her voice as she throws down an impressive lyrical flow.

Continue reading Music Review >> Trevor Hall – ‘Everything Everytime Everywhere’

Music Review >> Matt Nathanson – ‘Modern Love’

Dear summer, your soundtrack has arrived. This week marks the welcomed return of Matt Nathanson with his latest effort, Modern Love.

The San Francisco-based Nathanson took a year-long break from touring to work on his seventh album with his longtime collaborator, Mark Weinberg. Drawing influence from such bands as Depeche Mode, AC/DC and Talking Heads, Modern Love is a striking move forward from the singer-songwriter.

“We started with the idea of keeping a groove steady the whole way through a song,” Nathanson stated in a press release about the album. “I wanted things to breathe and hang off these songs in a way that defied the fact that they were written on an acoustic guitar.”

The lead single, “Faster,” really took me by surprise at first, because it is such a departure from “C’mon Get Higher” and the other material from Nathanson’s previous album, Some Mad Hope. The song really grabbed my attention, and it left me feeling excited about the direction in which he is taking his music.

Songs like “Mercy” and the album’s title track are guaranteed live show sing-a-longs. Both burst with such an energy which makes them perfect additions to any listener’s summer playlists.

Other standouts include “Run,” which features Sugarland’s Jennifer Nettles, and “Room At the End of the World.” In particular, “Run” shows the singer-songwriter’s sexier, romantic side. Its opening lyrics, “I wanna watch you undress, I wanna watch you glow, let hair down, all around, and cover us both,” are just the tip of the intimate iceberg. While I feel like it could have been recorded by just Nathanson alone, the combination of his vocals with Nettles’ elevates the song’s overall chemistry and emotional connection.

I really like “Room At the End of the World” because it has a bit of an anthemic feel to it, and I can’t wait to see how it translates onstage during a live show. If you have ever had the opportunity to see Nathanson perform live, then you know that he has a very charismatic stage presence which leads to quite the enamored audience.

With a bigger sound combined with provocative lyrics, Modern Love will be the album this summer that moves people to sing-a-long, to dance, and to be good to one another.

Modern Love is available now. For more information on Matt Nathanson, check out his official website.

Originally posted on Blogcritics.