Scott Beardsley – ‘Path With No End’

Independent Spotlight is a continuing series on Stewart’s blog. The series revolves around independent artists and bands sending their music to Brett to review. No band is promised a positive review, and all music is reviewed honestly in an effort to better independent music.

In this morning’s edition of the Independent Spotlight, we shine our gaze on Scott Beardsley, a homegrown Americana singer songwriter from a small town in Missouri. The musician has spent a good deal of his life in the US Army, and he’s lived in North Carolina and Alaska as well. His songs, however, are often centralized around characters and themes from his upbringing in the tiny town of Doniphan. His latest album, ‘Path With No End,’ explores some of those stories.

I’ve said it on the Independent Spotlight before, but it bears repeating: there are a lot of indie folkies and singer songwriters. Perhaps with the exception of hip hop, it’s the most inundated genre in the community. That doesn’t mean, however, that an authentic and talented artist can’t be heard through the noise. In a very unique way, I’d argue Beardsley does that.

‘Poor People Have Poor Ways’ opens up ‘Path With No End,’ and it’s a sound that’s injected with a healthy amount of Hank Williams, Bruce Springsteen, and even Johnny Cash, I’d argue. It’s a song about the working man’s struggle: a classic theme in early Americana music. ‘Poor People Have Poor Ways’ is simple in every sense; it’s just Beardsley and his guitar. The magic, however, lies in his sharp lyricism about the everyday life of America’s proletariat. “Money don’t mean a thing at the end of the day,” he croons in the final notes of each hook.

Another song that embraces a unique level of brevity is ‘Numb from the Whiskey.’ Beardsley’s emotional songwriting and vocal delivery shines here, and it’s another classic Americana theme: lost love drowning in a bottle of whiskey. The title track follows, and it’s an elegantly written tune. It does, however, present the album’s foremost issue.

These songs are truly well written and performed, but Beardsley’s production is all over the place. The early tracks on this album have very flat mixes. They sound like they were recorded on a room mic and never EQ’d or mastered. The title track, ‘Path With No End,’ has very overbearing lead vocals, and again, the mix is very flat. All six of the songs also have very quiet mixes, and had to push all my equipment to nearly max levels to hear them. 

Having listened to this album in a studio on studio equipment, I found myself itching to have access to the root files of the record to mix and master them. Beardsley should hand this off to someone to do that; some tinkering could take this album to the next level. ‘That Rocky Shore,’ a lovely little ballad, suffers from the same very hot vocals that the titular song does.

‘Sunshine’ is a particularly good tune. It has an inspirational vibe to it, but for all the sunshine it basks in, it feels genuine and infectious. It isn’t tropey at all. ‘Praying For Me,’ though, may be the best track of the half dozen. It’s such a beautiful tribute to one’s mother, and the production is a bit better, even if the vocal mix is still aggressive.

These are really splendid songs. Scott Beardsley has a great sound, and he’s writing some terrific songs. They have production issues, but that’s something that could be solved with a decent engineer. That’s just cosmetic. The root of the art – the music and lyrics – is quite good.

Narmeen Iftikhar – ‘Jazbaat’

Independent Spotlight is a continuing series on Stewart’s blog. The series revolves around independent artists and bands sending their music to Brett to review. No band is promised a positive review, and all music is reviewed honestly in an effort to better independent music.

In this afternoon’s edition of the Independent Spotlight, we shine our gaze on Narmeen Iftikhar, a classically trained artist from Guwahati, Assam, a northeastern state of India. Iftikhar boasts a broad resume with a bevy of accomplishments and collaborations, and she has also released a number of albums. Her latest studio endeavor is ‘Jazbaat,’ a record that she describes as “an emotional journey.” Let’s dig into it and discern if it’s worth including in your indie music collection.

First and foremost, I’d like to preface this review with a few vital notes. In the history of the Independent Spotlight, I’ve only had a number of classical or semi-classical Indian music acts come across my desk. Thus, it’s always an immense treat to receive music the likes of Iftikhar’s. Also, Iftikhar classifies ‘Jazbaat’ as a “ghazal” album, which is a lyric poem with a fixed number of verses and a repeated rhyme, often focused around themes of love.

Like many westerners, my earliest introduction to Indian music was via The Beatles and Ravi Shankar. From 1965 onward, George Harrison injected a massive amount of Indian influence into the Fab Four’s records, which was influenced heavily by Shankar. From Shankar, westerners like myself were able to dig deeper into the region’s traditional musings. Music like that prepped me, as someone who is mostly foreign to Indian music, to enjoy a record like ‘Jazbaat.’

Of course, I do not speak Hindi, so I cannot speak to the lyrical content of ‘Jazbaat.’ I wish I could, because ghazal music is focused largely around its lyricism, but I’m unable to do that as an English speaker. Hence, when listening to ‘Jazbaat,’ I found myself queuing the album up on my sound system and letting it fill the atmosphere of my surroundings in its entirety several times over. I probably listened to ‘Jazbaat’ three or four times through before I began penning this review.

The songs on ‘Jazbaat’ are very long, the shortest of the lot are just under six minutes in length, and most of them are far longer. Iftikhar’s voice is absolutely stunning through and through on this collection. My favorite excursions through her lovely crooning were ‘Garche Sau Baar’ and ‘Na Siyo Hont Na Khwabon.’ Her vocals are remarkably subtle. They hold an incredible amount of emotion in each nuanced verse, and I’d go as far to argue that one does not need to speak Hindi to feel the emotion and weight of each song.

The instrumentation on ‘Jazbaat’ is gorgeous as well, embracing a beautiful landscape of world instruments. Iftikhar is versed in Hindustani classical singing and Hindustani classical odissi dance, so I’d venture that the backing instrumentation on ‘Jazbaat’ was likely recorded and performed by other musicians. The musical compositions on the record are breathtaking, and the atmosphere of songs like ‘Hosh E Hasti Se’ perfectly accentuates Iftikhar’s voice.

Even on the album’s longer tracks, songs like ‘Jab Tere Shehr Se Guzarta Hoon,’ I found myself moved into a sublime trance. That song in particular has a rather intriguing percussion section. The seven and half minute ‘Gulon Mein Rang Bhare’ is equally compelling, as the instrumental solo sections wonderfully accentuate Iftikhar. In truth, there isn’t a song on ‘Jazbaat’ that isn’t a pleasure to dig into.

I cannot pretend I have an abundance of knowledge about Indian music. As a critic, it rarely comes across my desk. As previously mentioned, without artists like Ravi Shankar, I likely wouldn’t have ever gone down the world music rabbit hole of Indian music at all. I can, however, speak to how ‘Jazbaat’ made me feel as a human being and a lover of the art. It’s a moving collection of songs that offer beautiful soundscapes of vocals and instrumentation. From beginning to end, it’s an album you could turn on and be swept away by its surreal beauty at any time. I must laud Iftikhar for that. I’d highly recommend exploring this album if you’re at all itching for a world music indie record that explores Indian music styles.

Spade Monrow – ‘2 Timbz Down’

Independent Spotlight is a continuing series on Stewart’s blog. The series revolves around independent artists and bands sending their music to Brett to review. No band is promised a positive review, and all music is reviewed honestly in an effort to better independent music.

In this edition of the Independent Spotlight, I’ll be delving deep into a selection of tracks from ‘2 Timbz Down,’ the debut studio endeavor from the up and coming hip hop artist Spade Monrow. The album, which boasts a notable distribution deal with Dope Hitz Entertainment and Forbes Music, has already garnered significant attention for its single releases. The record is due out this coming spring. Is it worth your time? Let’s dig into it and find out.

‘Big Plays,’ a single that was released in October, has accumulated over 20,000 streams and downloads since its debut. Thus, it’s the first track I gravitated toward when exploring Spade Monrow’s music. Out of the gate, I can see why Monrow appeals to the indie hip hop community. He’s got some incredibly solid production baked into his tracks, and ‘Big Plays’ is certainly a track that could stand on its own two feet against mainstream counterparts. The indie hip hop genre is so inundated with poor production, so artists like Monrow are few and far between.

Outside the production, ‘Big Plays’ is a track that defines Monrow as a performer quite well. His presence is commanding and powerful, and there’s an undertone of electronic and dub in the instrumentation that works into his persona nicely. ‘Chalk It Up,’ another track from the upcoming LP, is heavily reminiscent of the artists that Monrow cites as primary influences: Notorious B.I.G, 50 Cent, and the like.

‘Dangerous’ is arguably the best of the tracks I was sent off of ‘2 Timbz Down.’ Monrow’s presence and lyricism on the track is excellent, and his eclectic use of autotune is fantastic. It reminds me heavily of some of Kanye West’s productional stylings on 2013’s ‘Yeezus,’ actually, and ‘Dangerous’ is an anthemic, badass hip hop tune through and through.

Similar to ‘Dangerous,’ ‘Suspect’ offers an explosive production that dials into Monrow’s borderline electronic sound. It’s one of his most convicted performances. ‘Woop Woop’ follows, a commentary of sorts on the police that has bizarre references to ‘Mortal Kombat’ and the like. It’s one of Monrow’s most eccentric lyrical bouts.

Finally, ‘I Got The Keyz,’ a bonus track on the LP, is a well rhymed jaunt through Monrow’s self-adoration. That may be my only major critique of an otherwise very good collection of tunes: I’d love to see Monrow explore themes that aren’t as self-centralized. Outside of that, though, ‘2 Timbz Down’ is shaping up to be a record worth picking up.

Dream – ‘Danger Zone’

Independent Spotlight is a continuing series on Stewart’s blog. The series revolves around independent artists and bands sending their music to Brett to review. No band is promised a positive review, and all music is reviewed honestly in an effort to better independent music.

In this edition of the Independent Spotlight, we shine our gaze on ‘Danger Zone,’ a new single from the indie artist Dream that is due out on January 13. The single, which was written in 1978 as Dream was stranded in a car on a bitterly cold winter night, has been a vital source of inspiration for the performer throughout his life. Now, he’s decided to share it with the world.

It’s worth noting that Dream is an artist that has explored an array of genres. He’s written and performed jazz, country, classical, R&B, pop, rock, and more. Born in 1958 in Augusta, Georgia, he still resides in the state in Atlanta, signed to the indie label Appadydus, which is the outlet releasing this new tune. Is ‘Danger Zone’ a single worth having in your collection of indie music? Let’s delve into it and find out.

Out of the gate, ‘Danger Zone’ beautifully exhibits Dream’s handle over quite a few genres. The first forty seconds of the track are a spoken word section that borders on hip hop influence. Dream fires shots across the bow at corrupt politicians and police, imploring his listeners to “keep on keepin’ on” in a divisive, frighteningly hostile contemporary social landscape.

The track evolves after the forty second mark, however, and essentially turns into a funk track. In a classic context, Dream is heavily reminiscent of Motown. There’s certainly a sonic lineage between ‘Danger Zone’ and The Temptation’s ‘War.’ In a modern context, Dream sounds quite a bit like Charles Bradley.

The production of ‘Danger Zone’ is absolutely superb, boasting a massive soundscape jam-packed with harmonious backing vocals, a terrific studio band, and Dream’s infectious personality. This was the first time Dream’s ten-piece live band was brought into the studio together to record. (Dream also arranged and performs bass on the track.) Simply put, there isn’t much music in the indie scene right now that embodies the funky, soulful space that ‘Danger Zone’ does.

This is a great single to kick off 2017. It’s well-produced, well-performed, and it’ll get listeners nostalgic over their favorite funk and Motown acts. Dream commands a splendid presence over his track, and the musicians and vocalists accompanying him fill out the atmosphere perfectly. ‘Danger Zone’ is a track well worth having in your indie music collection. It’s unlike anything else out there right now.

AP Mode – ‘Kids Eat Free’

Independent Spotlight is a continuing series on Stewart’s blog. The series revolves around independent artists and bands sending their music to Brett to review. No band is promised a positive review, and all music is reviewed honestly in an effort to better independent music.

In October of 2015, I lauded Airplane Mode, an outfit from Midland Texas, as an independent band worth keeping close tabs on. Their record at the time, ‘Slate,’ was a superb excursion through their talent and chemistry as a band. Now, over a year later, we shine our gaze on them once again, for Airplane Mode, now calling themselves AP Mode, have released a new album: ‘Kids Eat Free.’

The long absence of work from AP Mode is a result of the members all leaving to different colleges around Texas. Earlier this year, however, they reunited for this set of songs and a few live shows. Thus, it’s not clear whether or not ‘Kids Eat Free’ will be the group’s swan song or not. If it is, though, it’ll be a fascinating one. Let’s dig deep into ‘Kids Eat Free.’

At first glance, ‘Kids Eat Free’ is a dramatic departure from its predecessor. The album has a dichotomy between very short and very long tracks, the art was drawn by a preschool class, and the opening, ‘Class,’ is a spoken word introduction that takes place in a classroom as a teacher attempts to keep his students engaged and in line. Once you hit the meat of the record, however, it definitely has noticeable traces of ‘Slate,’ the band’s last collection of songs.

Like before, AP Mode is a balancing act of several genre influences. At its core, it’s alternative rock, but there are glimmers of indie, electronic, and jazz rock. For example, ‘A Place Where a River Runs Through’ highlights Joey Vetter on drums. The percussion is the forefront of the sound on the track, and the intensity and complexity of the performance borders jazz drum influence. Lead vocalist Lewis Grimes is then laden in an effect that gives him an electronic-esque sound. It’s a compelling first song for the record.

‘Wait & See’ is, arguably, one of the best songs on ‘Kids Eat Free.’ It’s actually infectiously catchy, and it’s doused in the same atmospheric reverb and effects that its predecessor, ‘A Place Where a River Runs Through,’ is. Last year, I compared AP Mode to Neva Dinova, the cult classic indie rock outfit from Saddle Creek Records. That sound is still eerily noticeable, and AP Mode should be targeting the despondent Neva Dinova fans who haven’t had a new release in years.

‘Movies & the Mind of Peyton’ incorporates a bit of a blues influence, and shines brightest as a showcase of the lead guitarist. When the track explodes at the halfway point, it makes for one of the most engaging efforts on the record. The snappy ‘No More Ubers in ATX’ follows, a bizarre instrumental interlude that wanders about in a reverberated atmosphere of bliss. It’s a great jam.

‘I Miss Airplane Mode’ is another relatively short tune, but it packs a good punch. Also, as one of the internet’s resident Kanye West fanatics, I can’t help but adore ‘I Miss Airplane Mode’ for its on-the-nose parody of West’s ‘I Miss The Old Kanye.’ Hell, the band even mimics West’s song structure in the final minute of the song. It’s absolutely hilarious, and a perfect lead-in to ‘Road Song,’ a more melancholy jaunt through more introspective lyricism. (It also houses one of the most lovely guitar performances on the record, the stunning solo in the latter half.)

‘Kids Eat Free’ offers its longest excursion with ‘Lightning & Thunder,’ a more experimental track that calls upon old timey radio samples to create a beautifully unique landscape. The sample voiceovers are somewhat reminiscent of ‘Revolution Nine,’ with the obvious exception of ‘Lightning & Thunder’ actually having a beat and melody. It’s a ten minute track, however, that passes very quickly. The jam is engaging, and for once, I can’t knock an indie act for delving into this long of a song duration.

The final two tracks of ‘Kids Eat Free’ are some of its best, starting off with the excellent ‘For the Better.’ It’s one of the best compositions on the LP, I’d argue, and I love the rise and fall of the instrumentation around the main hooks. The distorted, searing electric guitar on the title track is unforgettable, too, and the harmonies between Grimes and his band are great. The album then ends with similar classroom banter to its introduction.

It’s a damn good thing that AP Mode got back together for another record, because ‘Kids Eat Free’ is their best effort to date. It eclipses ‘Slate’ in every way, and that was already quite a good album. Go give it a spin. It’s worth your time.

Billy Roberts and the Rough Riders – ‘Blood and Bones’

Independent Spotlight is a continuing series on Stewart’s blog. The series revolves around independent artists and bands sending their music to Brett to review. No band is promised a positive review, and all music is reviewed honestly in an effort to better independent music.

Here on the Independent Spotlight last July, I delved deep into ‘Little Johnny,’ a single from Billy Roberts and the Rough Riders, an Australian rock group with a fresh take on country, blues, and rock. I lauded the single, and argued it was a tune very much worth including in one’s indie music collection. The song was an early glimpse into ‘Greenbah,’ the band’s upcoming album. Now, the outfit has released ‘Blood and Bones,’ another track due out on ‘Greenbah’ when it’s released.

As I noted this last summer, Billy Roberts and the Rough Riders is fronted, of course, by Billy Roberts – a unique vocalist that boasts a very dark, gravelly voice. This is very becoming of the kind of music he’s fronting, and ‘Blood and Bones’ is no exception. Roberts is certainly the personality of the single, something that’s beautifully accented by an excellent production and performance on behalf of the Rough Riders.

‘Blood and Bones’ carefully balances several genres and styles. There’s a borderline British Invasion sound to the single, as if it’s a track you’d hear on a Byrds record. The verses in particular have a very bright, infectious feel to them. At the same time, however, it has the grit and intensity of Americana music. That more grizzly style is embodied by both Roberts’ vocal performance and the distorted, searing electric guitar lead.

I’d recommend listening to ‘Blood and Bones’ on a decent speaker system or set of headphones. The production is riddled with interesting intricacies, something that’s especially refreshing since the indie scene is inundated with awful production. I adore the key sections on the tune – they sound like either an organ or a wurlitzer. They’re also baked deep into the back of ‘Blood and Bones.’ so you may miss them on a poor setup.

‘Blood and Bones’ is a great single. Just like its predecessor, it’s indicative of a record very much worth picking up. ‘Greenbah’ has been quite a long time in the making; I was introduced to it about half a year ago. When it does drop, you’ll want it on your radar.



MusicSnake – ‘BKLNXMAS’

Independent Spotlight is a continuing series on Stewart’s blog. The series revolves around independent artists and bands sending their music to Brett to review. No band is promised a positive review, and all music is reviewed honestly in an effort to better independent music.

In this review, I’ll be delving into ‘BKLNXMAS,’ a seven track live album and video event from MusicSnake, the artistic moniker of Fred King. King is a Belarusian-born musician working in New York City who explores hip hop, rock, pop, jazz, and funk stylings, and he raps in both English and Russian. His new endeavor is dedicated to Christmas, and it’s certainly an imaginative spin on a selection of timeless classics. Joined by the singer songwriter Jessica Rowboat, MusicSnake’s new set of live recordings and videos may certainly make for a nice addition to one’s holiday music collection this season.

Right out of the gate, ‘BKLNXMAS’ is an intriguing effort, opening with the most spirited ‘Santa Claus is Coming To Town’ that I’ve heard since Bruce Springsteen’s take on the classic tune. MusicSnake is accented by a single acoustic guitarist, and the two are elegantly in step in one another. The fervor of the instrumentalist’s performance and the gusto of MusicSnake’s delivery connect wonderfully. ‘White Christmas’ is weaved into the latter half of the track as well, which works surprisingly well.

‘Come On! Let’s Boogey To The Elf Dance!’ is the second performance on ‘BKLNXMAS,’ and it’s the first by Jessica Rowboat. Armed only with a ukulele, Rowboat echoes the same sort of musical brevity and simplicity that MusicSnake opened the album with. Her performance is absolutely lovely, and her take of a more obscure Sufjan Stevens track is one of the highlights of the collection.

The ball then returns to MusicSnake’s court with a Temptations cover, ‘My Christmas Tree.’ Oddly enough, it’s opened up by an extensive impromptu ‘Stairway to Heaven’ on behalf of the acoustic guitarist. Again, it’s surprising how well this actually does work. It’s splendid to see a younger performer like MusicSnake embracing tunes that were once brought to the forefront by acts like The Temptations. This version of ‘My Christmas Tree’ is strongly performed, and MusicSnake’s creative license in his favor.

When Rowboat returns again, she brings a classic rendition of ‘Baby It’s Cold Outside’ to the table. She has a very Norah Jones-esque sound to her, and I’d argue Rowboat’s personality seeps through each performance of hers in a terrifically unique way. She’s just infectious to hear play. Similarly, MusicSnake’s very contemporary take on ‘Jingle Bells’ is equally embracing and lovable.

While not directly a Christmas song, Rowboat’s take on Jackie DeShannon’s ‘Put a Little Love in Your Heart’ is her best performance on ‘BKLNXMAS.’ Now donning an acoustic guitar, Rowboat performs the hit 1969 single with a special sincerity and beauty. Followed by ‘Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas,’ Rowboat ends the album on a particularly high note.

This is a great little collection of holiday performances. Rowboat’s songs are more traditional, embracing singer songwriter tendencies, but in a gorgeous way. MusicSnake’s performances genre-bend and experiment with well-traveled classics, and to great success. The videos are shot very nicely, too, making ‘BKLNXMAS’ a holiday set you won’t want to miss.

Charles Luck ft. Tino Red – ‘Lift Off’

Independent Spotlight is a continuing series on Stewart’s blog. The series revolves around independent artists and bands sending their music to Brett to review. No band is promised a positive review, and all music is reviewed honestly in an effort to better independent music.

In this morning’s edition of the Independent Spotlight, we shine our gaze on Charles Luck, an independent hip hop artist and the songwriter for the large, eclectic collective called Black Astronaut. Earlier this year, I delved deep into their debut album, ‘Life On Mars.’ It was an exceptionally written, excellently produced jaunt through indie hip hop at its finest. Now, Charles Luck is back with a new single, ‘Lift Off,’ featuring Tino Red, another Black Astronaut artist.

Right off the bat, ‘Lift Off’ exudes the same production quality of ‘Life On Mars.’ Everything is very well mixed and mastered, and the beat is splendidly original. Every week, I get a dozen hip hop acts across my desk with lackluster, uncreative beats. Thus, I truly can’t stress the wonderful importance of quality, original production the likes of what Charles Luck and Black Astronaut are releasing.

Lyrically, ‘Lift Off’ continues the thematic nature of its predecessor. It has lots of space imagery, lots of ethereal, star-related lyrical content, and so on and so forth. It presents itself with incredible gusto, though, and it’s an instantly lovable tune. It’s also a clean track, and it has an uplifting message that’s all too absent in a lot of music today.

“Take the music out of hell, and maybe use it to get well,” Tino Red sings on the track as he walks a fantastic line between soul and hip hop delivery. This time of year, a track like ‘Lift Off’ is particularly special, I’d argue, and it has a beautiful message. I only have one quip: a terrific hip hop track like this doesn’t need a plug for its domain name in the chorus.

‘Lift Off’ is definitely worth going and spinning on SoundCloud right now, and I’ll link it below. Charles Luck and company continue to produce particularly high quality hip hop that’s worth keeping a close eye on.

Press Release – Adam Layne Fisher and the Downtown Revival Band – Dec. 18, 2016



Adam Layne Fisher and the Downtown Revival Band Release New Christmas Record

Greenville, SC – Earlier this month on December 2, Adam Layne Fisher and the Downtown Revival Band released their debut studio endeavor, a ten track collection of Christmas songs entitled ‘Our Savior Has Come.’ The outfit, which leads worship every Sunday at a mainline denominational church, is a rotating lineup of musicians dedicated to connecting their congregation with their faith through engaging music each week.

Since its inception, the Downtown Revival Band has become one of the most passionate worship bands in the contemporary Christian music community. Adam Layne Fisher, the worship director at their church and an accomplished voice in the Christian music industry, brought the group together to infuse eccentric new stylings into faith-based music.

The Downtown Revival Band exudes authenticity and joy in their music. Bringing together an infectious mix of rock, pop, and punk influence, the band is continually working to bring new sounds to, and innovate within, the Christian music genre. They re-imagine timeless hymns and classics, pen their own spirited work, and tie their sound together with a compelling, accessible atmosphere designed to get crowds and congregations on their feet.

Over the last two years, Adam Layne Fisher and the Downtown Revival Band have connected with an increasingly widespread fan-base. They opened for the Grammy award-winning singer songwriter Francesca Battistelli earlier this year, and in 2015, they opened for Colton Dixon and Aaron Shust. Over this last summer, the band’s Facebook page surpassed 10,000 followers.

‘Our Savior Has Come’ offers a dynamic Christmas rock experience unlike anything else in the oversaturated holiday music market. While the record’s performances are uniquely raw and genuine, the Downtown Revival Band also strike an elegant balance between anthemic rock and roll and candle-igniting, peaceful ballads.

Fans will discover a lovely sonic palette of holiday spirit on ‘Our Savior Has Come,’ much of which will be recognizable. Adam Layne Fisher and the Downtown Revival Band tackle enduring songs the likes of ‘Joy to the World,’ ‘O Holy Night,’ and ‘Away in a Manger’ on their new album, and each song has its own special flair. Alongside those tracks, however, listeners will discover music they’ve never heard before, such as ‘Peace on Earth (Follow Your Star).’

To further accent the upcoming Christmas holiday, the Fisher also released ‘Acoustic Carols,’ a five song EP that features a selection of Christmas carols from ‘Our Savior Has Come,’ but performed in a stripped-down fashion. Both records, along with Adam Layne Fisher’s previous two albums, are available on Bandcamp.

Fans who purchase the music on Bandcamp can also opt to buy all four albums in Adam Layne Fisher’s discography at a significant discount. Bandcamp purchases include a high quality download and ability to stream all of the music via the Bandcamp app. ‘Our Savior Has Come’ can also be found on iTunes and other major digital music platforms, filed under the full name, ‘Adam Layne Fisher and the Downtown Revival Band.’

Connect with Adam Layne Fisher and the Downtown Revival Band below. ‘Our Savior Has Come’ is available now!

Susan Galbraith – ‘Some Freedom’

Independent Spotlight is a continuing series on Stewart’s blog. The series revolves around independent artists and bands sending their music to Brett to review. No band is promised a positive review, and all music is reviewed honestly in an effort to better independent music.

Last week here on the Independent Spotlight, we showcased Susan Galbraith, a Seattle-based singer songwriter who had recently debuted a new pop-tinged effort, ‘Need You Here.’ Prior to the release of that single, however, Galbraith’s most recent release was her sophomore EP, ‘Some Freedom.’ Thus, here on the Independent Spotlight this morning, we’ll be delving deep into that EP and determining if it’s worth adding to your indie music collection.

As I remarked in last week’s review, ‘Some Freedom’ strikes a unbelievable dichotomy between itself and Galbraith’s most recent release. ‘Need You Here’ is a very pop-oriented pursuit, whereas ‘Some Freedom’ is an EP focused heavily in soul, R&B, and blues musings. The stunning introductory track, which is also the titular tune, is a perfect culmination of that.

‘Some Freedom,’ the song, is an immediate showcase of several key things that make this EP so excellent. Firstly, Galbraith’s vocal chops are a force to be reckoned with. She injects these songs with an impressive amount of emotion, and her delivery is poignant throughout. Second, the band backing Galbraith is absolutely superb. They accent her performance perfectly.

As one delves deeper into ‘Some Freedom,’ however, it only becomes more of a treat. ‘I Can’t Breathe,’ for instance, is one of the finest songs in the collection. It’s just the right amount of ‘pop’ infectiousness and soul. Even though the song is layered with beautiful instrumental intricacy, the core chorus is still borderline anthemic. There’s a balance between accessibility and complexity that Galbraith handles well on ‘I Can’t Breathe.’

‘Only The Good’ is one of Galbraith’s forays into more bluesy sonic themes. “Tragedy comes like a thief in the night, robbing us of all we knew,” she croons in the tune as the landscape is filled with a fantastic keys lead that sounds like it was performed on an organ or a wurlitzer. Sporadically, a blues-infused electric guitar hops in and out of the track as well, accentuating Galbraith nicely.

Once I reached ‘A Better You’ on the album, I finally pinned down the two performers Susan Galbraith reminds me of: Mavis Staples and Norah Jones. One could absolutely hear Staples performing a song like ‘A Better You,’ and the song is also reminiscent of Jones’ most recent single, ‘Carry On.’ Needless to say, I’d love to see Galbraith explore soul and blues even further, and perhaps even gospel or jazz.

While ‘Only The Good’ flirts with the blues, ‘No Money’ embraces it to the fullest. If I was to classify it, I’d argue Galbraith’s blues style is regionally most akin to Texan blues. There’s some Double Trouble influence that seeps through in the song’s guitar solo, and it’s a polished tune that still holds a noticeable rawness. (Blues, of course, sounds very different from region to region: New Orleans, Chicago, Memphis, Texas, etc.)

‘You Say’ is arguably the album’s most intriguing track. It incorporates bits and pieces of each genre that Galbraith explores in the five tracks preceding it, and the instrumentation is the most outstanding of the whole EP. The classical introduction of the track alone is enough to send a chill down one’s spine.

‘Some Freedom’ is one of the best indie EP’s I’ve reviewed in a long while. Galbraith is a strong lyricist, and while she tackles age old themes of love and strife on the album, she does so with such grace that each song feels completely original and different from the last. More so, ‘Some Freedom’ exhibits a woman with a masterful hand over soul, R&B, and blues. One can only hope her eventual junior effort builds on top of the incredibly strong foundation ‘Some Freedom’ has built below it.