Recommended: Collaborations by the Kintners

The first line says it all: “I’m spinning in squares, not circles.”

Translation: We’re doing something new with the old, familiar forms.

Even before that telling first line, the sound of scratchy vinyl and a cinematic blend of brass and strings conveys a similar message: A spinning record translated to the ones and zeros of the digital realm, a circle transmogrified into a seemingly infinite string of binary squares. Is it past, or is it future?

The album, by the way, is called Collaborations, and it’s quite excellent. Front and center are the complementary vocals of Kelly and Keri Kintner. Kelly has a rough-hewn, soulful, earthy voice reminiscent of the late, great Rick Danko of The Band (and a bit of Kenny Rogers as well), while Keri sings in a voice that calls to mind Linda Ronstadt. In short, if you like 70s country rock, you’ll love this album.

Yet even as a country-rock vibe provides the sonic foundation of this wonderful album, the Kintners, with the help, as the title suggests, of some extremely talented collaborators, are also eager to branch out into other musical styles. The horns and strings on the aforementioned opening track, “Keep Me Around,” for example, call to mind indie-rock darlings Belle and Sebastian, while the soaring, searing bluesy guitar of “Keep Me Around” offers a visceral echo of Pink Floyd’s David Gilmour. And be sure to give some special attention to the jazzy piano in “Two Weeks” featuring Charu Suri.

As for lyrics, the Kintners deliver vivid, heartfelt stories of real people living real lives. Often lonely but never hopeless, they populate the small, private spaces of our day-to-day lives: the front seat of the car, the hotel bar, the back roads we all travel.

The truly amazing feat of this album is that it conveys a sense of intimacy despite the fact that (I imagine, anyway) its contributors, with the exception of Kelly and Keri, were rarely, if ever, in the same room together. Sure, it’s common for musicians these days to shoot files halfway around the world to each other, but something – the magic of musicians playing off each other in real time, let’s say – usually gets lost in the process. It’s like trying to capture the same bolt of lightning in two separate bottles, but it’s a feat the Kintners manage to pull off with warmth and grace.

Review by Marc Schuster

MCCC on the Air Interview

Huge thanks to Michele Cuomo for interviewing me on Montgomery County Community College on the Air! In this interview, I talk about music, teaching, writing, the Beatles’ White Album, my new book about the Beach Boys, and my good friend Tom Powers. I also share a demo of asong I’ve been working on, “Someday Soon.”

Listen to the interview here: MCCC on the Air Interview

 

Album Review: Drawing from Memory by Scot Sax

There’s a reason Scot Sax is releasing his latest album on vinyl (and CD), and it’s not just that the medium is hip and cool these days. As a recording artist, Sax has been releasing a steady stream of tunes ranging from glam to funk to country and everything in between in one digital format or another for years. This time around, though, the songs have a warm vibe that demands the hum and crackle only vinyl can deliver.

The album is called Drawing from Memory, and it’s the kind of record you might stumble upon in your favorite record shop and think, “Huh… I thought I had all the great records from the 70s. How did I miss this one?” The vibe throughout is definitely retro in a completely unpretentious way. Maybe the best way to describe the album is as a love-letter to the music of the artist’s formative years.

Early on, the album has the feel of a Burt Bacharach record—or maybe, to more contemporary ears, it offers a not to some of Swedish popster Jens Lekman’s best tracks: a big, rich snare drum, lush strings, and a toy piano give way to sentimental lyrics in the album’s opener, “Where Do You Go to Cry?” From here, the album gradually morphs into something more along the lines of Carole King with “I Never Loved You,” a song whose lyrics recall “More Today Than Yesterday” by the Spiral Staircase but whose sound (figuratively speaking) is straight out of A&M’s Studio B, where Carole King recorded her legendary Tapestry album. Seriously, listen to the shaker-snare-piano-acoustic guitar combination on this track, and try to tell yourself it’s not 1972.

Other tracks on the album have something of a Beatles-post-breakup-solo-project feel to them. A slightly distorted slide guitar coupled with a lyrical sense of existential angst make a track called “Am I Still Living?” sound like it could be a lost Phil Spector-produced demo from George Harrison’s All Things Must Pass era, while a country-and-western drumbeat coupled with a funky synthesizer on “Song in A Minor” recall the homespun spirit of early Paul McCartney solo projects like McCartney and Ram.

Perhaps the most overt homage Sax offers on Drawing from Memory is “See All with No Sight,” whose Rumours-era Fleetwood Mac influence is undeniable. Here, a driving Mick Fleetwood floor-tom beat along with a twangy Lindsey Buckingham resonator guitar build up to a rocking chorus with a harmony line that you might, for a brief, shimmering moment, mistake for Stevie Nicks if you squint your ears just right.

Bottom line, if you love the adult-contemporary music that was beginning to seriously take root in the 1970s, you’ll love Drawing from Memory. Every track on the album recalls an era when people went out and bought LPs, brought them home, put them on the turntable, and just listened. At least in terms of music, it’s the best kind of memory to draw from.