Work Yourself Out
Lexington-based singer, guitarist and songwriter Donnie Bowling admits that he sat on this nearly-finished album for three years due to self-doubt, admitting that preparing himself for this record to be criticized by others has taken a huge mental toll on him. Listening to this record, I can’t for the life of me figure out why. The level of talent here is incredible. Bowling delivers on every front; songwriting, vocals, guitar, arrangements, lyrics, everything. While this is indie-folk on the surface, the influence of traditional Appalachian music, country, Americana, bluegrass, and even mid-to-late ‘90s alt-rock can be heard throughout this record. Acoustic-driven songs that push the boundaries of any genre-confines, not unlike those of fellow Kentuckians Tyler Childers and Sturgill Simpson, but with a hint of Jim James thrown in for good measure. His lyrics tend to have a stark, introspective honesty about them, taking the form of advice that he would give himself or anyone else struggling with loss, self-doubt, and navigating through one’s chosen path in life. Backed by a rich, warm, punchy production that takes what could have been simple singer/songwriter-type songs and creates a huge sound that fills the entire room with music when listening. Work Yourself Out is stunningly solid from beginning to end, with not even a hint of filler to be found anywhere within these 10 songs. This is one of those records where everything seems to fall right into place. It’s impossible to ignore, yet easy to lose yourself in.
Following closely on the heels of the debut full length album Spiral, released late summer last year, singer/guitarist/songwriter Davin Jones is back with his passion project In Utero. The latest release The Ugly EP is eight tracks of grunge-fueled punk rock clocking in a little shy of 25 minutes long (including an excellent cover of Helium’s “Lady of the Fire”). The Nirvana influence here is obvious, but unlike the album that shares the band’s name, In Utero’s style is far closer to that of pre-Nevermind era Nirvana. In fact, every one of these tunes here would have been right at home on Bleach or Incesticide. Past the Nirvana influence, elements of L7, Sonic Youth, Mudhoney, and early Soundgarden can be heard here as well. These are gritty, raw, hard-hitting, grungy punk rock songs played with all the anger and conviction of a young Kurt Cobain. Jones’ raspy yet powerful vocals are particularly well suited and effective with this style of music. And the rough-around-the-edges production gives an authentic pre-1991 grunge feel to these songs. This is revivalist grunge done right! The Ugly EP releases Friday, May 26, on all major streaming services.
Isolation Tank Ensemble
I keep saying it and I hope people are listening; there is something incredible going on in the Louisville music scene. There is unprecedented creative original music being made right here, right now. A shining example of that is Isolation Tank Ensemble, an instrumental six-piece that combines guitar, bass, and drums with keyboards, violin, mandolin, French horn and trumpet to create sweeping cinematic soundscapes that are uniquely all their own. They’ve coined their sound as “trash prog,” but I feel like that undersells the amount of creativity in their music, which takes prog rock, metal, and even a bit of punk and combines it with orchestral arrangements to create huge, epic songs. At times symphonic, at times chaotic, at times serene, but always grandiose. Imagined as a soundtrack for an epic story revolving around the birth of two sentinels for two opposite factions; the Collapsers (the light), and the Mages (the shade), each of Heliography’s nine tracks seems to be crafted around multiple explosive crescendos, reeling the listener in time and time again. Recorded at the beginning of the pandemic in Feb. 2020, the album will finally see the light of day on Friday, May 26. The band will also be playing the album live in its entirety at Headliners that night, with guests Flummox, Zerg Rush, and Dave.Will.Chris rounding out the bill.
Producing A Kind Generation
It’s rare that I’m at a loss for words when it comes to music, but I’m speechless right now. I’ve listened to this album three times in a row now and I still don’t know where to start. The music? The lyrics? The songwriting? Every part of this album is absolutely stunning! This is the first time I’ve really felt completely insignificant writing a review, because ultimately nothing I say is going to truly do this music justice. Self-described as “a post-apocalyptic, black, street-rock trio from Louisville, KY; through source, we translate rhythmic messages for the meek,” this is smooth, melodic, groove-oriented alt-rock at heart with its feet planted firmly in funk and its soul rooted in the blues. This isn’t music you just hear, this is music you experience. The music and lyrics come together to create a living, breathing entity that is demanding to be heard, and the band is the vessel in which it manifests itself. Take everything that is great about Prince, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Gary Clark, Jr., and Ayron Jones, then roll them all together and you have Producing A Kind Generation. Deep, meaningful, introspective and vulnerable lyrics that regardless of what walk of life you’re from, you’re going to find things to identify with in them; brought to life by the powerful voice of singer/guitarist/songwriter Dre Smith and a rich, warm, full production that fleshes out the bass of Aaron “Ace” Holmes and drums of Kym Williams perfectly. In a word: incredible!
Young Punk Kid Rocky
You want to know what the word prolific means? Louisville Hip-Hop/Rap artist, writer, and producer Young Punk Kid Rocky has released four albums and two EPs in the span of only a few months. And he shows no signs of slowing down. Obsessed? Inspired? Driven? Yes! Does he ever sleep? Doubtful. The music? Unique, to say the least. There is something strangely compelling about every one of his tracks. Pick any of them, from any release, and you’ll find yourself immediately drawn in and completely immersed in YPKR’s bizarre world. I certainly don’t mean that in a bad way, as YPKR has skills behind the mic, and behind the board. But the music and his style of rapping are odd, yet charming and catchy at the same time. The music is synth-heavy and electronic-laden with 808 drums, a cross between hip hop, house, and MIDI tracks, (the kind of songs you heard on old Nintendo games in the ‘80s). Although he can flow, (check out “The Dance” on the Marvelous album), YPKR tends to follow a choppy rapping pattern that follows the music. I’d love to be able to compare this to something, but I’ve never heard anything quite like it. YPKR’s sound is completely unique and original, and it’s something everyone needs to experience for themselves.
Well I was way off when I reviewed Young Romantics’ single, (and first track released off this album) “Fast Dancing in a Freezing Room” back in Nov. 2022 and made comparison to Red Hot Chili Peppers. That track grabbed me that way, but this album as a whole has a much different feel to it. Although their sound is rooted in Alt-Rock, the tunes here take on a much bigger soul, R&B, and even gospel influence than I picked up on with the single. Not only that, but elements of blues, jazz and funk are also all over this record. This Bowling Green-based four-piece, (vocalist Griffin Fletcher and drummer Matt Porter are, however, Louisville natives), has a well-developed and polished sound that is far more advanced than their short four-year existence as a band would lead you to believe they’d have. Surprisingly recorded in only eight days in January of last year, the level of songwriting and musicianship displayed here would suggest the band had bunkered down in the studio for months crafting, perfecting and recording these tunes. Secret Church is hell of a bold statement to make for a debut full-length album, (two studio eps precede this). Although “Seven Days” is my personal favorite, this album is nothing short of 12 straight powerhouse tracks in a row. Suffice it to say, I believe a lot of people are going to be worshipping at the altar of the Secret Church.