Tag Archives: Laurel Canyon

Lasers Lasers Birmingham: Royal Blue

LasersLasersBirmingham_RoyalBlueClassic country sounds meet modern-day experience

Ozark-native and Los Angeles-transplant Alex Owen writes in the idiom of twangy country music, but without draping himself in remembered rural sentiment. The album’s shuffling title track is pure Nashville heartache, but the lyric threads in modern vocabulary and cultural touchstones. The album’s lanky piano and crying steel accompany references to John Lennon’s lost weekend and Laurel Canyon, and the upbeat country shuffle “Hard Man to Please” finds guitarist John Schreffler Jr. dueling with himself on pedal steel and Telecaster. Chicago’s Shedd Aquarium provides the setting for an afternoon of stoner adventure, and “Anyway You Slice It” closes the EP on an acoustic note. Owen picked the band name as a portmanteau that evokes the nostalgic roots of Birmingham and the modernism of lasers, and his songs delivery exactly that. [©2016 Hyperbolium]

Lasers Lasers Birmingham’s Bandcamp Page

Chris Laterzo: West Coast Sound

ChrisLaterzo_WestCoastSoundCanyon country with echoes of Neil, Gram, Jackson and the Byrds

There’s always been a note of Neil Young’s high, keening tone in Chris Laterzo’s voice, but on his fifth album, backed by twanging alt-country, the notes are more plentiful and apparent. That’s not a criticism, it’s a compliment, as Laterzo doesn’t copy Young so much as sing original songs in a style that echoes Young’s work from the ‘60s and ‘70s. You can also hear flavors of Shannon Hoon in his high notes and Chris Robinson in his tremelo, and the loping rhythms of Laterzo’s American “cowboy rock” also connect him to the cosmos of Gram Parsons. The album’s title track finds Laterzo surrendering not just to the natural elements of his adopted California, but also to the the country-tinged rock that once flowed freely from Laurel Canyon.

Laterzo sings lovingly of his former neighborhood, “Echo Park,” memorializing the people, places and lifestyle of an important point in his life. Dan Wistrom’s pedal steel is particularly potent on this track. Laterzo is settled in Los Angeles, but having grown up in Denver, Boston and Brussels, he harbors a wanderlust that’s satiated as a touring musician and as the rambler of “Tumbleweed.” The road beckons more darkly as an avenue of escape for “Someday Blue,” with a tempo and acoustic guitar that suggest the despair of the Rolling Stones’ “Angie.” Despair turns to resignation in “Drag,” as Laterzo concludes you can’t negotiate with a closed book, and resignation turns to spite in “Subaru,” despite the lyric’s claim to the contrary.

There’s a wistfulness to Laterzo’s singing that merges memories with realizations. The backward glances of “The Bradbury” and “Chaperone” aren’t nostalgia, they’re the slightly stoned, or in the case of “Chaperone,” fantastically dreamed, building blocks of experience. The latter is stripped down to acoustic guitar and snare drum, and played at a tempo that perfectly paces the sleepwalking vocal. Laterzo often sounds lost in thought, as if his thoughts are extemporaneous and still forming as they’re being related; it’s a powerful way to draw listeners into songs. The album is low-key, but Laterzo’s reflections are bright and engrossing, and will entice fans of Young, Jackson Browne, the Byrds and other canyon dwellers. [©2015 Hyperbolium]

Chris Laterzo’s Home Page

Jeff Crosby: Waking Days

JeffCrosby_WakingDaysLaurel Canyon gets some twang

The Laurel Canyon-styled music heard earlier this year on Matthew Szlachetka’s Waits for a Storm to Find gets a running mate with “City Girls,” the opening track of Jeff Crosby’s third full-length album. Though his voice is more rustic, the production – particularly the bass playing of his brother Andy – is highly reminiscent of Fleetwood Mac’s Rumors, and particularly the song “Dreams.” It’s not the only sound swimming around Crosby’s head, as the album’s split between Los Angeles and Nashville studios adds twang to the West Coast vibe, and the solo acoustic passages, such as the intro to “Red, White and Blue,” play as singer-songwriter country.

Crosby’s voice is strong, but his songs plaintive, describing his struggle to reconnect with the evocative lyric “first day of Spring back home, and I’m just standing here like a payphone nobody uses anymore.” He wonders whether different life choices might have led to better outcomes on “I Should Be Happy,” ponders his place in the world on the album’s title track, but looks outward with the observational “The Homeless and the Dreamers.” Crosby’s material is mostly bittersweet, though he turns optimistic as he takes stock with “The Only One I Need.” The album’s canyon echoes reverberate in a pleasantly familiar way, but the songs are fresh and personal. [©2015 Hyperbolium]

Jeff Crosby’s Home Page