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Album review: Toughies - Tough Enough

“I don’t want it if it’s just for fun,” sings Toughies vocalist Carl Smith. The lyric echoes throughout “What Are Hands For?”, the second track off the band’s debut EP. Ironically, Tough Enough is a great deal of fun, complete with indie pop chords, full-chorus sing-alongs, and an adorable fluffy cat featured on the back of the album art. Yet this lyric perhaps encapsulates the tone of the EP’s 6 tracks—though the music is catchy and bright, it’s not ‘just for fun.’ In fact, the band has produced something of meaningful substance.
 
The Lawrence-based quartet released Tough Enough in September of this year. In addition to vocalist Smith, the band consists of Brad Girard on guitar, Joe Gronniger on bass, and Caroline Lohrenz on drums. The EP’s opening track, “Sloane,” immediately introduces us to Toughies as a unified team. Listening to the strong vocals sung in unison supplemented with the image of a wandering cowboy on the cover of the album, one can’t help but imagine singing this song while sitting with friends around a campfire.
 
Tough Enough explores that in-between space traveled by so many trying to navigate young adulthood: the sadness of a break-up, followed by self-reflection, leading to sweetly sincere attempts to mend the heartache by winning that someone back. On “Birthday Party,” Smith sings from the perspective of a man who hopes an ex will show up to his party and witness how much he has matured over the past year of separation. It’s sentimental, comedic, and honest all at once. However, the somewhat tender nature of many of the lyrics by no means makes the music of Tough Enough cheesy or dull—this is indie-pop, after all.
 
“Horsefeather” provides a dose of funk halfway through the EP that shows off the instrumental strength of each member of the band, and “Cheek” is a favorite that closes the EP on a high note. Listen closely to the last few seconds after the music stops and you can hear one of the Toughies mumble “we can go” amidst giggles, half-jokingly implying the recording was so flawless there’s nothing left for the band to do to raise the bar. Tough Enough is a skillfully constructed and warm introduction to a band we’ll hopefully hear much more of.
 
 
--Mary Kennedy
Mary is a lifelong Bostonian learning her way around Kansas City. She can often be found in an art museum, checking out local music, or taking a nap.
 
 

You only have one more chance to catch Toughies before the end of the year—this Friday at Replay Lounge. They will be appearing with Oil Boom and Monster. Facebook event page. 





Album review: Thunderclaps - Cookin' Up A Good Time

Before listening to the new Thunderclaps’ Cookin’ Up a Good Time EP, I had never actually heard the band. I knew a little bit about them—mostly that they’re a two-piece comprised of cousins Bryce Jones (guitar and vocals) and Colin Blunt (drums). As a bass player, I must admit that I tend to lose interest when I find out a band is sans bass. This probably isn’t fair. The first of the record’s three tracks, “So Lonesome,” begins with isolated laughter. I wondered why, until I heard the rest of the EP. Now I get it…the joke’s on me. This is great stuff.
 
“So Lonesome” is a song your grandparents wish they could have heard at the sock hop. A true throwback to the ‘50s, when rock and roll was still being defined, it is full-throttle rockabilly that has a simply irresistible energy. Jones’ guitar and vocals share a gritty but warm distorted twang. Blunt’s tenacious yet tight drumming is on the mark and fills the sound. You’ll be tapping your toes—if not dancing—to this ditty.
 
The closing track, “Shake It,” shares the verve and vigor of “So Lonesome,” but the driving beat and even gooier guitar tone gives it an almost surf sound. This may be the most potent tune on the record, thanks to the drums and guitar quieting to a whisper while Jones chants, “Oh ah a whoppa bam boom mama,” leading into a crescendo consisting only of sticky, reverb-dripping vocals. Despite sounding like it came from an old album purchased at an estate sale, “Shake It” could easily create an impromptu mosh pit in a live setting. It’s fun. It’s fast. It’s cool, daddy-o.
 
Between these two offerings is the slow dance number, “You Got a Hold On Me.” It’s a love song and a breath of fresh air strategically placed inside of two powerhouses. Jones softly sings about love from afar with someone he can’t have—or who won’t have him. “You got a hold on me / But I never held you.” Much more than a filler, the music is nicely crafted with a gentle pulse and smooth guitar punctuated with full ringing chords. It is literally and figuratively the heart of the EP.
 
Cookin’ Up a Good Time will appeal to multiple generations. It will be a blast from the past to some, and something totally new to others. At the end of the day it’s just good music—and good music is timeless. Pablo Picasso said, “Good artists copy, great artists steal.” Maybe one could argue that the best artists inspire others. Thunderclaps have clearly been inspired by past artists, and have borrowed from them to create something very relevant today.
 
 
--Brad Scott
Brad loves music, Boulevard beer, and his family. Not necessarily in that order.
 
 

Shake it with Thunderclaps this Saturday at Jackpot Saloon in Lawrence. They’ll be there with The Quivers and Old Grey Dog. Facebook event page 





October Artist of the Month: Ivory Black

Congratulations to our October Artist of the Month, Ivory Black! A fairly new transplant to Kansas City’s music scene, Black has been honing an identity as a songwriter for years. The budding performer moved to Kansas City from Seattle 6 years ago, and began adapting acoustic songs to include full band arrangements. Black recently assembled a band (consisting of Glen Hockemeier on drums and Keenan Franklin on bass) to fully execute their thoughtful, reflective brand of songs. With the release of their EP Ready Get Set this summer, the songwriter has gained some well-deserved attention locally and beyond.
 
The Deli: Down and dirty: 1 sentence to describe your music.
 
Ivory Black: I call it primo alternative, as in, it’s got this easy listening vibe but with upbeat rhythms, making it possible to move to.
 
The Deli: Give me some info on your musical background. Why did you decide to put a band together?
 
Black: My story musically is a simple one. I started writing as young as 12 years old when I got my first guitar. I’ve had bands over the years, but performed alone due to the simplicity of my acoustic songwriting. It wasn’t till I moved to KC that I started writing more intricate parts that required other musicians to play them along with me live and in the studio.
 
The Deli: What inspires your music and songwriting? What is your songwriting process?
 
Black: Literally everything inspires me artistically. It’s a dice roll of how I’ll write a song, depending on my mood, what I’m thinking or what happened that day or even years before. I don’t believe I’ve ever written a song with the same exact process I did on previous ones.
 
The Deli: What have been your greatest musical accomplishments?
 
Black: I’d have to say the greatest achievement so far has been the spike in my writing abilities, as in getting the point across. Listening to songs I wrote so many years ago, it’s mind-blowing to realize how far someone can come from where they first started.
 
The Deli: Tell us about your latest album Ready Get Set. What can listeners expect? What future plans do you have for recording?
 
Black: Ready Get Set is a compilation EP that I threw together so everyone that has ever asked has something physical and official of mine that they can finally hold in their hands. The future, however, holds many opportunities! The things I’m working on now, I’m very excited to get out as soon as recording opportunities arise in my favor again.
 
The Deli: What brought you to KC, and what do you think about the music scene here? Possibly related: what does supporting local music mean to you?
 
Black: I came to KC to focus primarily on a dream I’ve been chasing since I was little. Music is so influential, and can change people’s lives when they’re open to it. I really wanted to be part of that movement in a positive way. What I’ve found about KC is the abundant acceptance and appreciation that supporters and musicians alike have for local music. This scene isn’t possible without the support to push it forward, and KC is very supportive in that respect.
 
The Deli: Who are your favorite local musicians right now? Non-local?
 
Black: You develop a sort of kinship, or at least intend to, with people you relate to on an artistic level wherever you go. I’ve been a fan of My Brothers and Sisters for some time and have mad respect for what Jamie Searle has done and is still doing for his band and the community. I recently attended the Macabre KC show and was very entertained with the talent that was there. Calvin Arsenia has always had a spot in my heart, due to his passion in what he does vocal wise and with the harp. Jessica Paige has an incredible talent as well. Amazing voice. Erica Joy is easily a favorite.
 
Astounding attitude on both ends of the scene; even lesser known musicians I catch at open mics. The passion that people have to share their love for what they do is always inspiring, and of course the songs are as well.
 
Non-local, I’ve been a big fan of Diane Coffee lately. I don’t follow a lot of music but that artist is on point. I like music with psychedelic vibes in it that bring back the ‘70s and the music I grew up with. You won’t hear that on the EP, and it’s probable in the future, but I like it on other people’s material right now when it’s executed well. 
 
The Deli: What is your ultimate fantasy concert bill to play on?
 
Black: To be honest, I think it’s mind-blowing to play with any artist. I’m just starting out, so I’m pretty psyched every chance I get. The big dream of course is to have my name in those big letters on a marquee or something, with some huge band everyone knows about, but right now I’m taking it one step at a time.
 
The Deli: A music-themed Mount Rushmore. What four faces are you putting up there and why?
 
I kinda like it the way it is though. How about John Lennon? He’s been a huge inspiration to many! Maybe Mick Jagger for some flair. Since we’re going down the road of long-haired rock stars, you gotta have legend Stevie Nicks on there. Fleetwood Mac was a huge inspiration to me on that note. We’ll end it with Jim Morrison, cause you know, when the music’s over…
 
The Deli: What other goals do you have for 2015 and beyond?
 
Black: Well, to be frank, all the goals I wanted for this year have been fulfilled! Got the band going, started playing out, and finished the EP. Things went very well this year! It wouldn’t have been possible without my manager, Klaartje, so a big shout out to her. Next year we are banking for building up on our following so we can play places like Knuckleheads Saloon, The Brick, and venturing out to other states with well known venues. Just gotta take little steps at a time.
 
The Deli: Where can we find you on the web? Also, provide a link to streaming music and/or video.
 
Black: I ask that everyone checks out my personal site out where everything, including links to my EPK, EP and pictures can be found: www.ivoryblackmusic.com
 
The Deli: Always go out on a high note. Any last words of wisdom for the Deli audience?
 
Black: I don’t consider myself wise by any means, but I do know that if you put all of your heart into something good, things tend to have a way of working in favor of those that want it enough.
 
 
--Michelle Bacon
 
 

You can catch Ivory Black in just a couple weeks. Mark your calendars for Saturday, November 28 at The All-Star Rock Bar, with Lauren Karr and Co., and The Accidental Project. Facebook event page. 

November 2015
The Old No. 5s
"Steam
"
mp3
The Old No. 5s’ second album, Steam, is first and foremost a blues record. But it shouldn't be pigeonholed. A self-proclaimed rock/roots trio, members Brock Alexander (guitar/lead vocals), Derek Tucker (bass/vocals), and Aaron Thomas (percussion/vocals) prove they can play the blues with the best of them, but also have the chops to bust out some serious soul, bring the funk, or simply construct a nice power pop song.
 
The majority of the 11 tracks are fairly straightforward blues rockers, beginning with the album's first song, “Going Nowhere.” A perfect appetizer, it gives listeners a taste of what can be heard throughout the album: solid vocals, nimble guitar, and one of the best rhythm sections you'll find on a local or national release this year. There is an undeniable Stevie Ray Vaughan influence on this and several of the other true blues tunes, including “Starting to Show,” “Easy,” and the harder rocking “Hill Country.” While few guitarists can match his licks, Alexander certainly dials in Vaughan's tone, and has plenty of salty riffs himself.
 
Alexander's vocal style varies. On “Easy” he is confident and powerful, channeling a cocky Jimi Hendrix. He shows off a deep soul sound during “Keep Lovin' Me Baby.” On “Little Man,” a jazzier number, he is a bit more transparent and vulnerable, much like a young John Mayer. While he is very capable at each, I couldn't help wondering which one is Alexander’s real voice.
 
The standout track on Steam has to be “Barn Party.” A tightly wound ball of energy, it combines ferocious slide guitar (sounding very similar in this case to a pedal steel), brilliant bass, and a shuffling beat to create foot-stomping fun. Reminiscent of Robert Randolph and the Family Band, it starts uptempo and only gets faster, ending at a blistering pace. Be sure to have your air instruments handy for this one.
The Old No. 5s display a more unique style on the album's final track, “Just the Way I Am.” While remaining true to the band's bluesy vibe, the song has a catchy pop sensibility—with an impressive jam in the middle—and should appeal to a wide audience. The trio seems to find their own identity here, something I hope to hear more of on future recordings. 
 
Steam is filled with truly fantastic music that taps into several genres. The songwriting and execution is top-notch. The expertise and use of each instrument, tempo changes, and drawn-out solos make it one of the most enjoyable local albums I've heard in some time. As the band continues to mature and distinguish itself, The Old No. 5s should become a force to be reckoned with—both locally and beyond.
 

--Brad Scott 





Album review: The Old No. 5s - Steam

The Old No. 5s’ second album, Steam, is first and foremost a blues record. But it shouldn't be pigeonholed. A self-proclaimed rock/roots trio, members Brock Alexander (guitar/lead vocals), Derek Tucker (bass/vocals), and Aaron Thomas (percussion/vocals) prove they can play the blues with the best of them, but also have the chops to bust out some serious soul, bring the funk, or simply construct a nice power pop song.
 
The majority of the 11 tracks are fairly straightforward blues rockers, beginning with the album's first song, “Going Nowhere.” A perfect appetizer, it gives listeners a taste of what can be heard throughout the album: solid vocals, nimble guitar, and one of the best rhythm sections you'll find on a local or national release this year. There is an undeniable Stevie Ray Vaughan influence on this and several of the other true blues tunes, including “Starting to Show,” “Easy,” and the harder rocking “Hill Country.” While few guitarists can match his licks, Alexander certainly dials in Vaughan's tone, and has plenty of salty riffs himself.
 
Alexander's vocal style varies. On “Easy” he is confident and powerful, channeling a cocky Jimi Hendrix. He shows off a deep soul sound during “Keep Lovin' Me Baby.” On “Little Man,” a jazzier number, he is a bit more transparent and vulnerable, much like a young John Mayer. While he is very capable at each, I couldn't help wondering which one is Alexander’s real voice.
 
The standout track on Steam has to be “Barn Party.” A tightly wound ball of energy, it combines ferocious slide guitar (sounding very similar in this case to a pedal steel), brilliant bass, and a shuffling beat to create foot-stomping fun. Reminiscent of Robert Randolph and the Family Band, it starts uptempo and only gets faster, ending at a blistering pace. Be sure to have your air instruments handy for this one.

The Old No. 5s display a more unique style on the album's final track, “Just the Way I Am.” While remaining true to the band's bluesy vibe, the song has a catchy pop sensibility—with an impressive jam in the middle—and should appeal to a wide audience. The trio seems to find their own identity here, something I hope to hear more of on future recordings. 
 
Steam is filled with truly fantastic music that taps into several genres. The songwriting and execution is top-notch. The expertise and use of each instrument, tempo changes, and drawn-out solos make it one of the most enjoyable local albums I've heard in some time. As the band continues to mature and distinguish itself, The Old No. 5s should become a force to be reckoned with—both locally and beyond.
 
 
--Brad Scott
Brad loves music, Boulevard beer, and his family. Not necessarily in that order.
 
 

The Old No. 5s put on a monthly concert series at Coda—5s + 1—and it’s coming up this Wednesday evening. Special guest Coyote Bill will be sitting in with the band. Facebook event page. Or if you happen to be near Wichita next Saturday, they will be celebrating the release of Steam at Barleycorn’s that night. Facebook event page. 

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