AMPED™ FEATURED ALBUM OF THE WEEK: ESCAPE THE FATE/CHEMICAL WARFARE

Founded in Las Vegas, Nevada in 2004, Escape the Fate is a Metalcore band that has survived an ever-changing musical landscape and remain top of their game nearly 20 years since their formation. Initially featuring Ronnie Radke (vocals), Bryan Monte Money (guitar), Max Green (bass), and Robert Ortiz (drums), the band eventually added Carson Allen (keyboards) and Omar Espinoza (guitarist). The band began touring and recorded a demo, eventually landing a contract with Epitaph Records. By the time they released their debut album, DYING IS YOUR LATEST FASHION (2006), Allen and Espinoza had left the band and Radke followed suite after the album was released. While the band had achieved some success with their debut album, losing their front man cast a dark shadow over their future. But things were about to change. Enter former Blessthefall vocalist Craig Mabbitt and Escape the Fate’s future began to look brighter.

The band released THIS WAR IS OURS in 2008 and it reached #35 on Billboard’s 200 Albums chart. In 2010, their self-titled third album hit #1 on Billboard’s Hard Rock Albums chart, #25 on the Billboard 20, and #4 on the Rock Albums chart. By the time their next album, UNGRATEFUL, was released in 2013, Max Green was out of the band and TJ Bell stepped in on bass. The band then added a second guitarist, Michael Money (brother of Monte). Two years later, the album HATE ME featured another line-up change: the Money brothers were gone, replaced by guitarist Kevin ‘Thrasher’ Gruff. TJ Bell moved over to rhythm guitar and he and Gruff handled bass duties in the studio. Escape the Fate then released their next album, I AM HUMAN, in 2018. With the release of the album, the band had maneuvered their way through the ever-changing Hard Rock landscape, always with their eyes on the future.

Escape the Fate’s 2021 album, CHEMICAL WARFARE, finds the band sounding fresh, energetic and unafraid to move backwards, forwards, and sideways at the same time. Behind the crunching guitar chords, you’re going to find electronic rhythms, some keyboards, and plenty of soaring melodies. More like an album of emotional anthems, CHEMICAL WARFARE is not a Pop album, but the melodic sing-along hooks are there. And guest performers are there, too – Lindsey Sterling appears on “Invincible” and Travis Barker is featured on “Not My Problem”. Most of the tracks on CHEMICAL WARFARE are fist-pumping, head-banging rockers, but Escape the Fate toss in a few curve balls including the danceable beats on “Unbreakable”, the haunting musical passages that appear from time to time (especially on “Erase You”) and subtle Hip-Hop influences spread throughout the album. The album’s title and cover reflect the paranoia that we experience today, but the music on the album offers an ‘escape’ (… ahem…) from grim realities we face when the music stops playing…

ESCAPE THE FATE

CHEMICAL WARFARE

4.16.2021

AMPED™ FEATURED ALBUM OF THE WEEK: CHRIS CAIN/RAISIN’ CAIN

Award-winning Blues guitarist Chris Cain grew up on the Blues. His father used to entertain Chris by telling him tales about growing up on Memphis’ historic Beale Street and constantly played the Blues in the Cain household. Attending his first B.B. King concert at the age of 3, Chris’ future was cemented in stone cold blues. Teaching himself to pay the guitar at the age of 8, he continually honed his craft and was already a professional musician by the time he turned 18. While he earned street cred by playing live, he studied music at San Jose City College, delving into Jazz music and eventually learning to play saxophone, clarinet, piano, and bass guitar. Cain combined his Blues roots and Jazz training and created his own unique sound.

With his distinct guitar style, Chris Cain soon rose to the top ranks of the Blues scene. He released his debut album, LATE NIGHT CITY BLUES, in 1987 on Rock It Records. The album won him four Blues Music Awards and caught the attention of Blues label Bling Pic records. His next three albums – CUTTIN’ LOOSE (1990), CAN’T BUY A BREAK (1992), and SOMEWHERE ALONG THE WAY (1995) – were released on the label before re-signing to the Rock It Records label. He continued to release a series of acclaimed albums including UNSCHEDULED FLIGHT (1997), LIVE AT THE REP (1998), CHRISTMAS CAIN (1999), CAIN DOES KING (2001), HALL OF SHAME (2003), SO MANY MILES (2010), KING OF THE BLUES (2015), and CHRIS CAIN (2017). Cain then signed to legendary Blues label Alligator Records and began putting together his next album…

Four years since the release of his last studio full-length, Chris Cain releases RAISIN’ CAIN, his most highly-anticipated album yet. The twelve songs on the album are Cain originals that showcase his skills as a songwriter, arranger, bandleader, and guitarist. The songs on RAISIN’ CAIN run the gamut from deep and sweaty bar Blues to joyful, horn-laced blasts of bluesy emotion. Tracks like “Hush Money”, “I Don’t Know Exactly What’s Wrong With My Baby”, “Space Force”, “Can’t Find A Reason”, and “Found A Way To Make Me Say Goodbye” focus in his way of creating music that works its way from the inside out. This is not just a bunch of standard Blues riffs strung together without a thought – this is real Blues born from emotion and feeling. More than 30 years after his debut album, Chris Cain is more connected to the Blues than ever. RAISIN’ CAIN is proof of that.

CHRIS CAIN

RAISIN’ CAIN

Available NOW!

AMPED™ FEATURED ALBUM OF THE WEEK: THE BEAT FARMERS/TALES OF THE NEW WEST (Deluxe)

Even if they may escape the prying eyes and ears of the rest of the world, every major city in the U.S. has a vibrant music scene. And San Diego, California is no different. While some think of San Diego as Los Angeles and Orange County’s precocious little brother (or sister), the talented musicians that have created and built the SD scene over the decades beg to differ. The city – and surrounding areas – has given us Jason Mraz, P.O.D., Rocket from the Crypt, the Album Leaf, Trees, Gary Puckett & The Union Gap, Iron Butterfly, Pinback, Unwritten Law, the Penetrators, As I Lay Dying, Joey Harris & The Speedsters, and many others. From local popularity to national (and international) fame, San Diego has been the birthplace of so many great artists. Thankfully, the city still has an exciting musical scene that will continue to keep growing.

The San Diego-based Punk Rock and New Wave scenes of the late 1970s and early 1980s was a particularly fertile time for bands and musicians. However, the city also had a thriving Rockabilly/Roots Rock scene as well. One of the most popular bands from this scene was The Beat Farmers. Founded by drummer/vocalist Country Dick Montana (real name: Daniel McLain) and guitarist/vocalist Jerry Raney, the duo recruited guitarist/vocalist Buddy Blue (real name: Bernard Seigal) and bassist Rolle Love and The Beat Farmers was born. While each of the members had come from different local Punk, New Wave, and Rock bands, the sound that they created in The Beat Farmers was roots-influenced Rock ‘n’ Roll, a genre that would later be called Americana or Y’Alternative. The band quickly built a sizable following, recorded their live set as a ‘demo’ and landed a recording contract with Rhino Records. Their 1985 debut album TALES OF THE NEW WEST was an enormously successful album for the then-independent label and the band. With four songs being played on four different radio formats, The Beat Farmers’ debut set the stage for a successful career for this talented band. They signed to Curb Records for a series of albums, losing Buddy Blue along the way but gaining the equally talented Joey Harris in the process. The Beat Farmers came to an end in 1995 when Country Dick Montana died while playing a live show in Canada. The band’s memory lives on in Raney’s current band The Farmers (aka The Farmers SD).

The Beat Farmers’ influential debut album TALES OF THE NEW WEST has been out of print for years, but the Blixa Sounds label has rectified that situation by reissuing the album as a deluxe two CD edition. The original 12 track album is joined by the live album LIVE AT THE SPRING VALLEY INN, 1983, the very recording that helped the band land their deal with Rhino Records nearly four decades ago. The original album is filled with absolute classics like “Bigger Stones”, “Lost Weekend”, “California Kid”, “Goldmine”, and covers of the Velvet Underground’s “There She Goes Again” and Bruce Springsteen’s “Reason to Believe”. The album remains a timeless audio snapshot and most certainly paved the way for new generations of Americana rockers. The bonus live CD contains a live set by the band performing some songs that would end up on TALES… plus tracks that they would not record elsewhere. The lo-fi sound quality cannot hide the energy, sweat, and joy in the band’s performance and the bonus CD works as a perfect companion to TALES OF THE NEW WEST. If you missed this album the first time around, now’s the perfect time to meet the Beat Farmers!

THE BEAT FARMERS

TALES OF THE NEW WEST (Deluxe)

4.2.2021

AMPED™ FEATURED ALBUM OF THE WEEK: SUZI QUATRO/THE DEVIL IN ME

Here in the United States, Detroit, Michigan-born Suzi Quatro is best remembered for her stint as Leather Tuscadero on the television sitcom Happy Days and the 1978 hit single “Stumblin’ In” (a duet with Chris Norman, lead vocalist for British band Smokie). However, Quatro is much more than just a blip on the pop culture roadmap – she is one of the most influential female artists in Rock ‘n’ Roll history. From her days as a member of one of the first all-girl Garage Rock bands – The Pleasure Seekers – in 1964 to her series of successful UK hit singles during the Glam era of the early-to-mid-1970s, Quatro’s influence is immeasurable. Joan Jett, The Runaways, Tina Weymouth (Talking Heads), Chrissie Hynde (The Pretenders), and Kathy Valentine (The Go-Go’s) all cite her as a huge influence. Through talent and perseverance, Suzi Quatro not only carved out a nice career for herself, she also opened the gates for thousands – if not millions – of female musicians to walk through. And it all started 56 years ago…

Suzi Quatro’s career began in Detroit, Michigan in 1964 when she joined her sister Patti’s Garage Rock band The Pleasure Seekers. Suzi moved to England in 1971 and began working with producer Mickie Most, who helped her craft a series of Glam Rock hit singles that shook the UK charts: “Can the Can”, “48 Crash”, “Devil Gate Drive”, “The Wild One”, and “If You Can’t Give Me Love”.  While her singles and albums didn’t gain a lot of attention in the U.S., her appearances as bass-playing rocker Leather Tuscadero on Happy Days raised her profile in the States and the single “Stumblin’ In” and albums such asIF YOU KNEW SUZI (1978) and SUZI… AND OTHER FOUR LETTER WORDS (1979) were hits. New Wave and Punk came along and, buy the early 1980s, dominated the charts. Although her original audience remained loyal to her, it took quite a while for Quatro (and her contemporaries) to regain commercial momentum. These days, her influence is readily acknowledged by many artists that arrived in her wake and the words ‘legend’ and ‘icon’ are often used to describe her musical career. And thank goodness, she’s still out there rocking…

Suzi Quatro’s 2021 release THE DEVIL IN ME is her first studio album in two years and reveals an artist that is well-aware of what her audience wants and needs – and she delivers on all fronts. This is not a watered-down version of Suzi Quatro – this is an album by a veteran artist who still has a lot of Rock ‘n’ Roll vim and vigor running through her veins. With a batch of Blues-based rockers, hard rock riffs, catchy hooks, and a few ballads tossed into the mix for good measure. THE DEVIL IN ME is classic Quatro but still sounds fresh and exciting. Many artists who have been in the business for over five decades operate on cruise control, but Quatro sounds like she’s had a tune-up and is revving her engines and ready to race again. Tracks like “Hey Queenie”, “Get Outta Jail”, “I Sold My Soul Today”, “Motor City Riders”, and the title track are some of the rockin’ highlights. Even when slows down the pace on “My Heart and Soul”, “Love’s Gone Bad”, and “In The Dark”, or adds a funky groove to “Do Ya Dance”, she still retains that Quatro magic. Don’t call this a comeback album, call it a ‘Come to your senses, I’ve been here all along’ album.   

SUZI QUATRO

THE DEVIL IN ME

Available NOW!

AMPED™ FEATURED ALBUM OF THE WEEK: PAPA ROACH/GREATEST HITS, VOL. 2: THE BETTER NOISE YEARS

Formed in 1993 in Vacaville, California, Papa Roach climbed to fame during the early ‘90s Nu-Metal movement. Even though the band was tougher and edgier than some of their contemporaries, they still got swept up in the scene. However, they managed to break away and prove that they were more than just another band riding Korn and Limp Bizkit’s coattails. Founded by vocalist Jacoby Shaddix and guitarist Jerry Horton along with Will James (bass), Dave Buckner (drums) and short-lived trombone (!) player Ben Luther, the band released their debut album, OLD FRIEND FROM YOUNG YEARS, in 1997. By this time, Tobin Esperance had taken over on bass. The band’s fanbase began to grow, attracting interest from major record labels. The future, as they say, was looking bright for Papa Roach…

Signing with the DreamWorks label, the band released INFEST, their major label debut, in 2000. The album proved to be a massive success and climbed to #5 on the Billboard Hot 100 Albums chart. Their subsequent albums for DreamWorks/Geffen/DGC were all landed in the Top 20: LOVEHATETRAGEDY (#2/2002), GETTING AWAY WITH MURDER (#17/2004), THE PARMOUR SESSIONS (#16/2006) and METAMORPHOSIS (#8/2009). Still riding high on the charts, the band left the comfort of their label deal, issuing …TO BE LOVED THE BEST OF PAPA ROACH as their parting shot. Resurfacing in 2012 with THE CONNECTION, their first release for Eleven Seven/Better Noise, the band were louder and more powerful than ever.  That album was followed by F.E.A.R. (2015), CROOKED TEETH (2017) and WHO DO YOU TRUST? (2019). Over 25 years since their formation, Papa Roach show no signs of slowing down.

To celebrate the band’s first decade with Better Noise, Papa Roach have released GREATEST HITS, VOL. 2: THE BETTER NOISE YEARS, a 21-track compilation of songs pulled from their albums released between 2010 and 2019 including two previously unreleased acoustic tracks (recorded in NYC at YouTube Studios) and three unreleased remixes. Also included is “Broken As Me”, featuring Asking Alexandria’s Danny Warsnop. The first single from the album, “The Ending” (remastered 2020) is featured in the 2021 horror/thriller THE RETALIATORS, a film that features Shaddix making his motion picture acting debut. GREATEST HITS, VOL. 2: THE BETTER NOISE YEARS also features remastered versions of “Gravity” (featuring Maria Brink), “Kick in the Teeth”, “American Dreams”, “Elevate”, “Burn”, and more. While this collection may close this chapter of the band’s career, they still have many more chapters to write…

PAPA ROACH

GREATEST HITS, VOL. 2: THE BETTER NOISE YEARS

Available NOW!

AMPED™ FEATURED ALBUM OF THE WEEK: ROB ZOMBIE/THE LUNAR INJECTION KOOL AID ECLIPSE CONSPIRACY

In 1985, nobody would have ever thought that the leader of the newly-formed noise rock band White Zombie would end up having a hand in the changing of the music and filmmaking landscapes in the coming years. But here we are, 36 years later and nearly everyone knows who Rob Zombie is. Whether you love or hate his music and films doesn’t matter – Rob Zombie has become an innovative and influential artist regardless. His vision gathers together pop culture’s darkest slices of kitsch and presents them in new and unique ways. In Rob Zombie’s world, the clean-cut hero doesn’t always exist and if he/she does, then that person doesn’t necessarily wear a cape. In the music and movies he creates, he takes our darkest fears and skewers them with a hot fireplace poker while riding on the back of a large pig and yelling, “Yee-Haw!” And believe it or not, we need that kind of artist to stir things up a little.

From noise rock to genre-blending Heavy Metal, Rob Zombie was the loose cannon that steered White Zombie from one end of the Rock universe to the other, bridging the gap between crunchy Metal and brain-thumping industrial rock. He also added horror and humor, allowing White Zombie to appeal to a wide array of fans. From 1985 until their dissolution in 1998, there was no band like them. When they split up, they were at the top of their game, yet Rob Zombie chose to chart a different course. He released a series of well-received hit solo album and starting a career as a film director with 2003’s HOUSE OF 1000 CORPSES. That film spawned two sequels and gave him enough clout to put his own spin on the HALLOWEEN franchise, which resulted in two films. In total, Rob Zombie has sold more than 15 million albums worldwide and has written and directed eight feature films with a worldwide gross totaling more than $150 million. And the music and movie worlds have changed since his arrival on this planet. Thankfully, he isn’t done yet…

THE LUNAR INJECTION KOOL AID ECLIPSE CONSPIRACY is his 2021 release, the first Rob Zombie solo studio album in five years. Everything you love about his music can be found on this album. From brain-beating guitars to EMD beats, this is a Rob Zombie with one foot in the past, one foot in the present and both hands grabbing bits and bobs from the future. From the heavy rock of “The Triumph of King Freak (A Crypt of Preservation and Superstition” to the Country Blues stomp of “18th Century Cannibals, Excitable Morlocks, and a One-Way Ticket on the Ghost Train”, there are plenty of musical detours on this album. And you can’t beat song titles like “Shake Your Ass-Smoke Your Grass”, “Shadow of the Cemetery Man”, “The Satanic Rites of Blacula”, and the two previous songs mentioned. This is everything you want and more from Rob Zombie. It also serves as a perfect gateway for new fans into his back catalog. It is powerful, spooky, fun (egad!), dark, and riveting. Like I said, everything you want from a Rob Zombie…

ROB ZOMBIE

THE LUNAR INJECTION KOOL AID ECLIPSE CONSPIRACTY

Available NOW!

AMPED™ FEATURED ALBUM OF THE WEEK: TIGERS JAW/I WON’T CARE HOW YOU REMEMBER ME

Formed in Scranton, Pennsylvania in 2005, Tigers Jaw was formed by Ben Walsh (vocals, guitar, and drums) and Adam McIlwee (guitar, vocals) during high school. Brianna Collins (keyboards/vocals) joined soon after. For the first eight years of the band’s career, they formed the nucleus of the band. With the addition of Dennis Mishko on bass, the band released their critically successful debut album BELONGS TO THE DEAD. Walsh, who was originally the band’s drummer, moved to guitar and vocals when the band brought in drummer Pat Brier. The band issued their second album, TIGERS JAW, in 2008, followed two years later by the album TWO WORLDS (2010). Each album brought them more fans, slowly building up a large fanbase through word of mouth, critical raves, and social media. It seems everything was going smoothly… until things nearly ground to a halt.

In 2013, McIlwee, Mishko, and Brier told Walsh and Collins that they could no longer continue with Tigers Jaw. The band made the official announcement and many people expected this to be the end of the band. However, the remaining members vowed to continue as a duo. Their fourth album, CHARMER (2014), was the band’s last to feature the five-piece line-up. Walsh and Collins released their next album, SPIN (2017), as a duo before officially recruiting touring members Colin Gorman (bass) and Theodore Roberts (drums) as official members.  With renewed energy and a focus, Tigers Jaw signed with Hopeless Records and began work on their sixth album in the summer of 2020.  With all four members involved in the songwriting process, the album was bound to be not only a continuation of the band’s legacy but also a new lease on life.

I WON’T CARE HOW YOU REMEMBER ME, their seventh album, builds upon the band’s history without repeating it. Edgy when it wants to be and fun and engaging when it needs to be, the album embraces Pop, Alternative Rock, Indie Rock, and Punk-Pop with passion. The quartet isn’t afraid to tackle different genres, beginning with the acoustic Folk-Rock opening of the album’s title track before it kicks into anthemic Pop. The album’s first single “Cat’s Cradle” is sweet Pop-Punk with a hooky ‘80s synth riff weaving its way in and out of the song. Like those first two tracks, there are insanely catchy hooks throughout the albums that are inspiring. Other highlights include “Anniversary”, “Hesitation”, “Lemon Mouth”, and “Never Wanted To”. A real gem is “Heaven Apart”, a track that could have existed during the great Twee Pop movement of the ‘80s and ‘90s. The album is a revelation given the fact that it was recorded months into a pandemic that practically brought the world to a halt. Not bad for a band that had nearly come to an end eight years ago!

TIGERS JAW

I WON’T CARE HOW YOU REMEMBER ME

Available NOW!

AMPED™ FEATURED ALBUM OF THE WEEK: WESLEY SCHULTZ/VIGNETTES

Formed in Ramsey, New Jersey in 2002, The Lumineers have become one of most popular Folk and Americana bands in the U.S. over the course of their 20-year career. Now based in Denver, Colorado, founding members Wesley Schultz (vocals/guitar) and Jeremiah Fraites (percussion/piano) have forged a career that has inspired a legion of young musicians to investigate American Folk music, Country, and other genres that were not yet considered ‘cool’ in the world of indie rock. However, The Lumineers were one of the bands that dusted off these old classic genres and gave them a new coat of paint. While the band has been instrumental in the uprising of Americana and the new Folk movement, it wasn’t always that way…

When Schultz and Fraites first started playing together, they threw every style of music into the mix – from hard rock to electronica – to see what felt most comfortable to them. From mediocre rock covers to tender acoustic singer/songwriterballads, they tried it all. Gradually, they gravitated towards a musical comfort zone that included doing covers while slyly adding originals to the mix. They even toyed with a few different names for the band including Free Beer. Thankfully, a mistake by an emcee at a Jersey City club led to the name The Lumineers and the rest was history. They relocated to Denver, Colorado and in 2010, began to build the band that would eventually record their 2012 self-titled debut album. Their sophomore album, CLEOPATRA, was released in 2016, followed three years later by their third album, III.  Beloved by a loyal fan base, the critically acclaimed band has gone from strength to strength in their nearly two-decade existence.

And here we are in early 2021, a year deep into the pandemic and we are still caught between the fear of the present and the hope for the future. Thankfully, Wesley Schultz has emerged from the shadows and presents his solo album VIGNETTES, a collection of cover versions of songs that have inspired his musical journey over the years. While the world outside might feel like a raging river, VIGNETTES is that calming pond that lies just beyond the meadow in your mind. While the album isn’t a joyous affair, it’s stark simplicity and emotional performances combine melancholia and sadness with a celebration of the warmth and power of music. Tackling songs by Warren Zevon, Tom Waits, Sheryl Crow, Bruce Springsteen and Jim Croce, VIGNETTES may feel like a modern Folk album, but it is really an honest homage to the Church of Music. The songs feature Schultz’s voice accompanied by either a piano or acoustic guitar, but the atmosphere of each recording provides a new dimension that is felt more than heard. And his version of Croce’s “Operator (That’s Not The Way It Feels)” is heartbreaking. This is an album that will inspire you to hold hands with your loved one as you shelter from the storm and await the dawning of a new day.

WESLEY SCHULTZ

VIGNETTES

Available NOW!

AMPED™ FEATURED ALBUM OF THE WEEK: WILD PINK/A BILLION LITTLE LIGHTS

Creating a unique musical sound isn’t always planned. Sure, you can think that combining genre #1 with genre #5 and then adding a dibble-dabble of genre #8 sounds like a good idea, more than likely one of those genres will dominate and listeners may not notice anything else. Band bios – usually written by the band members or their girlfriends – promise something spectacular and unique yet end up sounding mediocre and predictably unspectacular. However, there are times when an artist or band creates their own distinct sound accidentally. Influenced by several different genres, the music that they create ends up sounding distinctly original. One of those bands is Wild Pink

Founded in the boroughs of Brooklyn and Queens in New York City in 2015, Wild Pink occupies a musical universe of their own making. Led by singer/songwriter John Ross and featuring bassist T.C. Brownell and drummer Dan Keegan, the trio released three EPs over the next year: 2 SONGS (2015), GOOD LIFE (2015), and 4 SONGS (2016). They followed those releases with their self-titled debut album in 2017. A year later, they issued their sophomore album, YOLK IN THE FUR. Another EP, 5 SONGS, followed in 2019. Throughout these EPs, the band evolved and matured. Ever since the release of that first EP, they planted their roots into the musical soil and, over time, they began to blossom. With nutrients provided by the bands that inspired them, Wild Pink finally bloom in 2021 with the release of A BILLION LITTLE LIGHTS.

Produced by Grammy-winning producer David Greenbaum (U2, Beck, Jenny Lewis), A BILLION LITTLE LIGHTS is a wonderful blend of pastoral pop, rootsy Americana, modern indie rock, and atmospheric post-punk. Existing somewhere between the ethereal musical universe of Cocteau Twins and the laid-back rustic pop of Death Cab for Cutie, Wild Pink create music that seems to levitate in mid-air. Gentle, introspective and melodic, the songs on A BILLION LITTLE LIGHTS reflect the heart and soul of John Ross and his bandmates. Some use loud, angry, and aggressive music to beat the listener into submission, but Wild Pink realize that music is not supposed to frighten anyone. Instead, they use it to communicate, soul-to-soul. With songs like “The Wind Was Like A Train”, “You Can Have It Back”, “Bigger Than Christmas”, “Oversharers Anonymous”, and “Family Friends”, Ross and Co. have given us the gift of thoughtful reflection all wrapped up in sweet melodies. You couldn’t ask for anything more.

WILD PARK

A BILLION LITTLE LIGHTS

Available NOW!

AMPED™ FEATURED ALBUM OF THE WEEK: KAREN MATHESON/STILL TIME

Formed on Oban, Scotland in 1984, Capercaillie is a band that blends both traditional Gaelic and modern Folk music, creating a sound that has delighted audiences around the world for over 35 years. For their first few albums, the group focused on creating music that was modern yet rooted in traditional Folk. Beginning in the early 1990s, they made a slight shift in their sound, adding more modern elements to their recordings, creating a contemporary sound that appealed to a wider audience without alienating their devoted fanbase. Their albums throughout the ‘90s and into the ‘00s were successful, earning the band a larger audience. Their most recent recordings have seen the band return to their folksier roots,  and nearly four decades later, Capercaillie’s catalog remains beloved and respected.

The heart and soul of the band is vocalist Karen Matheson, who has been one of the two only constant members of the band since their inception (the other being keyboardist Donald Shaw). While Matheson remained the voice of Capercaillie, she also embarked on a side career as a solo artist. A dozen years into the group’s career, she released her first solo album, THE DREAMING SEA (1996). Her second album, 2002’s TIME TO FALL, featured musical assistance from Scottish Pop/Soul band Love & Money. Three years later, she issued her third solo album, DOWNRIVER (2005). Dividing her time between her solo albums and Capercaillie, it took another decade before she issued her fourth solo album, the deeply personal URRAM (2015), her first all-Gaelic release. The album featured musical assistance from her Capercaillie bandmates, most notably Donald Shaw. The album received rave reviews across the board and Matheson proved beyond doubt that she was still one of Scotland’s preeminent purveyors of Folk music.

Matheson returns in 2021 with the hauntingly beautiful STILL TIME, an album that was born from the pandemic lockdown. A sonic blend of Americana and Gaelic Folk music, the album – produced by Shaw – features Matheson’s beautiful vocals floating through a collection of songs that reflect the times that they were recorded in: stark and emotional but not without hope. In fact, the musical atmosphere on STILL TIME is not shrouded in grey clouds and sadness. This is an album that gathers together a mix of emotions while standing in the warmth of the sunshine after a particularly harsh rainstorm. The songs, which date back a few years, were not written about the pandemic but the recordings reflect the moods of modern times. Highlights include “Cassiopeia Coming Through”, “The Diamond Ring”, “Orphan Girl”, “The Aragon Mill”, and the title track. An album of beauty and hope is always welcome in a world still reeling from an invisible enemy. STILL TIME is good for the heart and soul.

KAREN MATHESON

STILL TIME

2.12.21