It’s been nearly thirty years since the self-titled 1989 debut album by The Innocence Mission was released. The album was a slickly produced slice of Folk Pop that was filled with enchanting songs that shimmered regardless of the production value. Throughout the years, the band has continued to create albums filled with beautiful melodies plucked from the rain-soaked side of heaven. SUN ON THE SQUARE, their 10th studio album, is no exception. Tender, minimalistic and haunting, the album strikes the perfect balance between frail and strong, heartbreaking and hopeful, and love and loneliness. In essence, it is everything you’d expect from an album by The Innocence Mission.
Country Music has gone through a major metamorphosis over the years. Modern Country radio resembles Pop radio of the ‘90s and you’d be hard pressed to find a pedal steel guitar on any track gracing the Top 40. For those looking for a more traditional slice of Country Music, you’ll need to look outside of the charts and turn your attention to hard-working rootsy Americana outfits like Sarah Shook & The Disarmers in order to get your traditional Country fix.
Field Music is a UK outfit formed by brothers David and Peter Brewis in 2004. The band’s clever and unique approach to Pop music set them apart from any and all of their contemporaries. Instead of following any ‘current’ musical trend, the band blended Psychedelic-era Beatles influences with C86 jangle, Synthpop swirl, Baroque Pop, Indie Twee and angular Post-Punk. Add some truly mesmerizing melodies, eclectic arrangements and a pure love of music making and you’ve got the recipe for great recordings. Embracing Pop music but ignoring the limitations of the standard Pop formula, Field Music is a band that can easily be compared to other music mirth-makers like 10cc and XTC. Even the brothers’ side projects School Of Language and The Week That Was are worthy additions to your collection.
Stephen SPAZ Schnee was able to send off a few questions to David Brewis, who graciously took time to discuss the band’s new album OPEN HERE and more…
The Return of FASTBALL
Over two decades after the release of their debut album, Austin-based trio Fastball is just getting started. Still
comprised of Miles Zuniga (vocals/guitar), Tony Scalzo (vocals/bass) and Joey Shuffeld (drums), Fastball has nothing left to prove. They’ve achieved everything that all bands strive for when they first get together – a record deal, tours, hits (1998’s “The Way” is their biggest so far) and respect. Now that they’ve been able to step away from the spotlight for eight years, they sound refreshed, focused and re-energized. But please don’t call STEP INTO LIGHT a comeback album. Comebacks are often desperate attempts at replenishing the bank
accounts by taking advantage of fans’ fond memories. Fastball is merely picking up the bat, taking a swing and knocking another one out of the park. STEP INTO LIGHT is a fantastic album that reminds people just how good this band has always been. In fact, it may be their most consistent full-length platter to date. The boys have a home run on their hands and they’ve left their contemporaries – new and old – in the dust. Again.
Stephen SPAZ Schnee was able to pitch some questions to Fastball member Miles Zuniga, who graciously took the time to throw back some answers…
There’s a hidden treasure in Haydenville, Massachusetts… and his name is Ray Mason. He’s been an active musician on the scene for more years than many of us have been alive, releasing solo albums as well as serving time as one-half of Americana duo Lonesome Brothers. Ray plays no-nonsense Rock ‘n’ Roll the way it should be played: fresh, exciting and littered with musical references from practically every genre you can think of. When throwing on a Ray Mason album for the first time, don’t be surprised if you hear a sad and sorrowful Country crier followed by a prickly rocker with a Punk edge to it. His music references everyone from Robert Johnson to The Beatles. His early influences can be found on records released by labels like Motown and Stax but don’t be surprised to find some inspiration from the Stiff and Chiswick archives as well. The best way to describe Ray’s sound is this: imagine Neil Young colliding with Nick Lowe while fronting NRBQ and performing songs telepathically channeled from David Lindley’s sideburns. If you are thoroughly confused, have no fear. Describing Ray’s charm is difficult. However, enjoying this unpretentious, humble and extremely talented man’s music is a much easier.
With over 20 albums to his name (including eight or so with Lonesome Brothers), digging into Ray’s back catalog is hugely satisfying. Normally recording with a few longtime friends as the Ray Mason Band, Ray does occasionally record albums with just his trusty Silvertone guitar. His latest plate-spinner, THE SHY REQUESTER, is one of those albums. Imagine walking into a bar, grabbing a beer, and then relaxing as you enjoy the night’s entertainment: a down-to-earth singer/songwriter plying his trade with songs that seem to reflect how you – a normal person – relate to this world. THAT is what listening to THE SHY REQUESTER is like. It is funny, sad and completely from the heart. It is also raw and loose, as you’d probably expect from an album with just voice and a Silvertone electric guitar with varying degrees of reverb. It may not shimmer and sparkle like what you hear on Top 40 radio, but Ray’s music has much more depth and honesty – even when he strips it down to its core.
And now, I’d like to introduce you to Ray… in his own words!