CD Review: “Steppin’ Out” by Beauregard and the Downright

This summer, Beauregard and the Downright released their album Steppin’ Out, a ten track masterpiece that embodies the obscure balance between grit and grace. If you are not familiar with these guys, Beauregard and the Downright is a refreshing blend of folk and reggae with truly soulful southern undertones. These music craftsmen put their heart and soul into each of their performances and did no less for their first album. Steppin’ Out starts out with it’s cover art, as all albums do, but in this case the art houses its known capacity of a thousand words. The front of the album shows a young, tattered survivor shielding his vision away from a post-apocalyptic scene of exploding missiles wiping away any remains of civilization. But that’s just one perspective, which never yields the full picture. On the back of the album, we can see what has captured the lone survivor’s gaze, a scene of tranquility that escaped the self-destruction of mankind, a scene where peace has prevailed and the wonderment of nature roams free. The artwork foreshadows what is found within the tracks of the album, which is a brief, blissful escape from the crazy, chaotic life we all struggle with at the snail’s pace that is the ticking away of time.

Steppin Out starts off strong with the track “Death & Destruction”, a well composed reggae tango where the lead switches between an extremely catchy horn chorus and mellow vocals that capture the chiaroscuro of humanity with each passing verse. Following this solid start, there is a drastic shift in tone with the second track called “Falling in Love”, As done with their album art, Beauregard and the Downright shows that there is more than one perspective on life. From here, the album goes into some very soulful jams that keep it real with some more sick horn melodies and groovy yet gritty guitar rhythms that pair perfectly with the truth found in each songs’ lyrics. Holding down the middle of the album is the ballad “Atlanta Anthem”, a true look into the depths of Atlanta with the unexpected yet delightful strummings of a ukulele. The band even gives some shoutouts to some of the city’s hotspots such as the Old Fourth Ward and local venues that the band frequents, such as the iconic 529 in East Atlanta Village. However, these shoutouts aren’t just an homage to our wonderful city but help spin the tale that is Atlanta, a city of hustlers and players where sorrows are lost in the bottom of glasses and bliss is found within a night out on the town. More bumping tunes follow in the album, with each song full of new surprises to the ears, really showing the dedication that Beauregard and the Downright put into their first big impression in the music scene. There is even a skit thrown in about the ordinary struggles of ordering some good pizza. To close out Steppin’ Out, the band did a cover of “I Wanna Be Like You”, as best known from the movie The Jungle Book, with all of this track being a live studio session with portions that are stark tributes to the aforementioned movie. These guys can definitely say they went out swinging on this album.

Check out Steppin’ Out for yourself to see what all this hype is about. I really am looking forward to seeing, rather hearing, how Beauregard and the Downright tops their sophomore release.

CD Review: ‘Aura Vista Motel’ by Vaudeville Etiquette

By Danielle Boise

Seattle-based band, Vaudeville Etiquette follows up their 2014 debut album, Debutants & Dealers with the release of their sophomore album, Aura Vista Motel, which was released on May 6.  And believe me, I’ve listen to this album dozen upon dozen times and there is not one track on the album that disappoints. The entire collaboration is a brilliant follow up and to an already stunning debut that they made back in 2014. I can only imagine where Vaudeville Etiquette will go from here.  The 11-track album is engaging as it takes us on a beautiful journey into the land of psych-folk that blends beautifully with bluegrass roots with seamless harmonies, and the chemistry between Bradley Laina and Tayler Lynn is palpable and utterly transfixing to listen to.

Aura Vista Motel starts of strong and bold, like a really great cup of coffee and really kicks you into gear with “Crosseyed Crazy.” The steel guitar plays a significant part in the creation of this album, giving it the foundation from which the whole album uses as the building blocks for a masterful creation.

With poignant lyrics like, “Will I ever get it right?”  from the song “Aura Vista,” is truly reflective in nature by showing us the deep and painful, yet beautiful nature of a “shipwrecked soul.” “Damn Lovely” starts out with a raw sensuality that slowly builds into a blistering fire, leaving the listener to feel as if you’re unspooling from the inside out. I will say that “Bridges” has a Springsteen vibe to it that is just fun to listen to as a stand-alone song.

“Room 417” truly isn’t a song, but more a transition from the beginning of a relationship that brings us to the “Tipping Point,” which is filled with fiery passion. It’s bold, demanding with so much hurt and pain, along with all the chemistry that fuels all those opposing emotions is laid out raw right before the listener to consumer wholeheartedly with “we can get along, if we just don’t talk.” I think anyone who has ever been in a relationship, can understand and completely get those feels of when they reach the tipping point in their own relationship and all you want is for the other person to be quiet in order to get along.

When listening to “Set it on Fire,” I had this odd sense of feeling dismal mixed with a vision of an old carnival ride that encases the underlying tone of the song for me, it’s like you can feel the end in the distance coming closer to the horizon. Almost in one sense hunting it down and in another avoiding it at all costs.

I love the lyrics on this album, they are so utterly exposed and vulnerable on the inner workings of relationships. Of how in one sense we bind ourselves tightly to another only to see it unravel before our eyes. Vaudeville Etiquette puts all these feelings together eloquently in a way that transpires to the heart of the nature of relationships, like “let’s dance with the devil ‘til it breaks our hearts” in “Helpless Heart” the lyrics are both poignant and bittersweet in the ways of the heart and the strife of love. “You were such a restless soul, easy to the touch, but hard to hold.” Is another perfect example of the craftsmanship that went into creating this honest album.

“Empty Hands” is filled with a beautiful sadness that underlines the entire song, “learn how to hold our cold and empty hands.” “Til The Wheels Unwind” has a bit of a country kick to it as the song carries the burden of the distance that builds inside relationships with unreasoning sensibilities while becoming immobile to your lover’s needs.

Aura Vista Motel ends on a bittersweet note with “Leaving Song” which is absolutely gut wrenching by shatters the listener into a million pieces with so much truth and honesty, “my love covered in rapture from the pale blue doves. I’ve got no choice but to leave you ‘til the work is done.”

What I find the most intriguing thing about this album is that there are so many layers and levels to it. It’s all from where the listener is in their life to how the music will fill their soul up. For me with each new spin I hear something new, and get a greater appreciation of the masterpiece that I truly feel that Aura Vista Motel is. This is definitely an album you will want to listen to more than once. So go out and buy a copy on CD, download it from iTunes or wait until they press it to vinyl (and they will be doing that shortly), but regardless of how you listen to it, just listen to it. It’s so worth the spin, so give it a twirl.