Music Review Archives. Band Stuff. Work Stories in Progress.

Check out some of the ExMogul Music reviews from the archives, below.

I reviewed music on and off for about 15 years, while I took a break from singing and doing gigs.

Now I've flipped that around. And here's my band, SPEED LIMIT 70.

January 15, 2009

Heidi Jane

Back in the 1990s I took a trip to Doolin, Ireland and spent the evenings in a local pub restaurant, listening to the incredible music that sprung up from the jams. The exuberance and joy of those spontaneous Celtic jams is present in the music offered up on Heidi Jane’s myspace.

Heidi Jane is a singer/songwriter whose primary instrument is violin. She has been featured on National Public Radio’s “Morning Edition,” and is known in her local area of San Francisco for her unique musical style; her music combines elements of Celtic jams, African rhythms, and features her beautiful, pure voice. La Faranda – the lead track on her myspace and the single off of the new CD – brings to mind lots of different elements. I hear Toto’s “Africa,” the vocal playfulness of The Waitresses, some Paul Simon’s “Graceland,” the fluidity of the voice Joni Mitchell. The song is lush and beautiful without seeming to take itself so seriously; it is accessible to listeners of all different styles of music. Lovers of Celtic romps will appreciate the incredible musicianship exhibited on Whiskey Before Breakfast. The Hardest of Times has a bit of a harder and more insistent drive, with a a modern rock/girl pop vibe underscored by Celtic rhythm. Imagine early Liz Phair minus the swearing, merged with some Enya and you might be on the right track. The Songs We Used to Play could almost be considered Celtic Country, with its reminiscences of a earlier time in life. Lovely harmonies, some wah-sounding acoustic guitar rhythms and a solid drum beat all work together with Heidi Jane's beautiful violin fills and leads. Visit Heidi Jane on her site:
(photo by Hali McGrath)

January 12, 2009

Brian Molnar

Ah, Peaceful Easy Feeling. Combining some of the feelings and sonicscape of Roger McGuin, Bob Dylan, Tom Petty, and early Eagles, singer/songwriter Brian Molnar delivers a laid back 1970s California folk-rock vibe. Brian successfully sets a tone on his compositions, which are well-written and use smart instrumentation – never cluttering up the story-telling aspect of the songs. Nice use of slide guitar throughout Santa Fe; some country-picking, and what sounds like either a lap steel or pedal steel guitar round out the instrumentation on this old school country folk song.

Changing Lanes is a bit stronger-voiced; the instrumentation also adds a little dirt to the whole vibe, with the slide sounding grittier and the drums driving harder. Coo Coo adds some Ray Manzarek organ sounds ala Riders on the Storm, nailing the 1970s trippy vibe found in that signature Doors song. Further reading into Molnar’s press material indicates that this is famed musician Bernie Worrell. Devil Singing Backwards suggests the mellow California rock vibe present in Santa Fe. Melodic guitar lead break adds a nice element to the song, as does the phrasing stops and starts. A catchy chorus makes this song memorable. The song selection ends with I Did What I Did – which features lovely female backing vocals which add so much to the song. A call and response style slide guitar is present in the background of the track, which also adds a nice touch. Listen to Molnar’s tracks on his website: (photo: Hands Up by Jenny Czyborra )

January 5, 2009

Newspaper Joe

Newspaper Joe is the pseudonym of DIY singer/songwriter Mike Clark, who has an intriguiging list of influences on his myspace. Besides the known musical entities like Johnny Cash, John Prine, Lou Reed and The Clash, NpJ also lists used instruments, junkyard percussion and shit-house poets as influences. And darn if those don't accurately figure into the sound he makes.

Several of his available tracks come from his 2006 release entitled Lazarus, Gin, Mercy and Gin (Paris, Dr. Lazarus); the tracks City Clinic, Neither Here Nor There, and Dead Canyon are featured on the new release Sad Bastard Routine (2008). City Clinic has a very low-fi aesthetic, and is very effective. Heavy echo makes the lyrics a bit hard to decipher, but NpJ paints a lonely soundscape with his melancholy vocal tones, accompanied by a few Casio-sounding keyboard effects. Neither Here Nor There takes a folky-storyteller approach, with nice vocal harmonies and stripped down instrumentation, good use of organ ala Dylan's "Like a Rolling Stone." The track lives squarely in the alt-country realm and is a bit slicker than the low fi of Clinic. Dead Canyon is hard driving, and opens with a nice couple of cymbal crashes and guitar power chords. The sound level of this track is alternately mellow during the verses, to raucous during the chorus - which give it a nice balance. Vocally, this has a contemporary singer/songwriter vibe which contrasts nicely with the old timey vibe of Neither Here Nor There. Visit Newspaper Joe's site and listen to more:

January 3, 2009

The Great Unwashed

Hailing from three of the five NYC boroughs, The Great Unwashed capture the raw energy of nights at CBGB and The Continental back in the day. Not from NYC? Look up the history of those venues and you'll get the picture.

Winter Classic
starts with guitar feedback and a driving drum beat. No filler here - the vocals start right in: "you're the strangest person I ever met" - and get right to the point. The song is an upbeat punk-edged pop song highlighted by half-spoken vocals and bouncy bass lines not unlike Michael Stipe and Mike Mills' signature sounds in R.E.M. A "jam band meets 90s-era college rock" musical lead and outtro finish out the song nicely. No words clutter up this section of the song, yet the song never feels like it needs to be over before it actually ends. Red Delicious has a more typical vocal treatment, and brings jangly rhythm guitar to the mix. Some quirky time signature sections in the middle give this song a nice twist. The song never loses its drive, and adds some interesting vocal chorus elements. All Night Breathing has an element of The Police in the mix, probably owing to the tight rhythm section of bass and drums, especially in the break between verses. I keep hearing "Walking on the Moon" during this part. I Am a Speck of Dust turns up the noisy guitar distortion, giving the song an old punk vibe (ala MC5, Ramones, Patti Smith Group) , yet hangs onto The Police rhythm section. A nice 60s-era guitar lead, with its chorusey effects (think "Eight Miles High"), brings another really good ingredient to an already tasty song. Mirage a la Mode has a screamed vocal treatment which detracts from the song. This song has some swirly guitar, nice time signature changes, melodic bass lines and a great drive.

The Great Unwashed has some great tracks on its myspace. Check them out: