CD Review: “Reader Of The Runes-Divination” by Elvenking

Elvenking unleash a potent spell of folk metal on its tenth release, Reader Of The Runes-Divination. “Perthro” is a brief piece that opens the album. “Perthro” is the rune of fate and the unknowable. The tribal drums, sorrowful violins and droning vocals convey a sense of mystery and adventure. “Heathen Divine” is an exuberant track with crushing riffs and driving percussion. Guitarists Aydan and Rafahel lay out some great harmonies and solos throughout this track. “Divination” continues the lively tone of this record with a fast tempo and sweeping violins. This is an anthemic track with its hardy chorus and Rafahel’s energetic vocals. The smooth transition in to a tight groove makes this a enjoyable track from start to finish. “The Misfortune Of Virtue” is one of the heaviest tracks on Reader with its melodic death metal riffs and pounding Lancs’ pulverizing drums. Still, there are tranquil moments during the song’s chorus with its lush keyboards and saccharine vocals. The song seamlessly transitions from heavy to soft while maintaining its dark character. “Under The Sign Of The Black Star” is a grandiose track with its baroque guitar riffs and lumbering bass. The music paints a picture of a group on horseback traveling the countryside at night on a quest. “Reader Of The Runes-Book 1” is a near 11 minute epic that concludes the album in splendid fashion. The regal riffs and Aydan’s soaring vocals are underscored by a mid tempo that slows down for the melodramatic chorus. Blastbeats and black metal riffing kickoff the second half of the track before an acoustic guitar relaxes the intense atmosphere. An excellent end to this record that leaves the listener wanting to hear “Book 2.”

Reader Of The Runes is epic, symphonic metal that takes the listener on a journey. Elvenking play lively and passionately throughout the album, throwing out numerous surprises. Each track is lush and textured with several things going on at once but never sounding awkward or pretentious. This is attributed to the brevity of the songs and the album’s overall song order. Production wise, Reader is stellar, with clear quality and excellent guitar and drum tones.

Elvenking cast the right spell with its tenth record. Reader Of The Runes-Divination is a fun, heavy, adventurous record of the highest degree. Fans of symphonic, folk or power metal will certainly enjoy this record with its great musicianship and songwriting. Bravo Elvenking.

Check out the band’s official website here:

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.

CD Review: ‘Just Crazy Enough’ by SHEL

Better B# - TAM Logo 2

I feel as though I’ve lost something… No, not lost, but forgotten something.  Something that was so present in my life once upon a time, but now has been buried under the burden of adulthood.  Each day passes before my eyes as I drone on, carrying around my list of priorities, expectations, and what-have-you’s.  I keep my regrets bundled in my back pocket so that I can’t help but sit askew.  Four extraordinary young women from Ft. Collins, Colo., have cleared that fog from my eyes, reminding me of my forgotten companion.  It’s child-like wonder, and it radiates through these songs as a ray of light through the morning mist.

Just Crazy Enough, the new album from the sister act known as SHEL, makes me smile.  That might sound like a rather plain statement, but it’s deeper than you may think.  This sophomore release is more than just a fun collection of tunes, though they bring them in spades.  The tracklisting overflows with a spirit that wraps you in a loving embrace, lifting you up to the rooftops and cradling you in its comforting reassurance.  It cracks open the shell of apathy and makes you grateful to be in this moment.  I can’t help but be sad due to all the time I’ve spent letting life beat me down, but I’m so happy to have found a momentary reprieve.

“Alright,” you say, “Barry has lost it.”  Fair enough, let us embark upon the finer details of this charming release.  For those who were fortunate enough to snag a copy of the group’s limited time fan-release, The Laboratory Sessions, you might notice a few familiar faces.  Three tunes have been overhauled for this release: “You Could Be My Baby,” which now pulsates with an even more resounding low end, reminiscent of the Beatles’ “Come Together;” “Moonshine Hill,” the Appalachian foot-stomper about being selective in our vices, now featuring a choral intro and extra guitar, bass, and background vocals that fill previously found airy space; and “Stronger Than My Fears,” the soft, finger-plucked guitar closer that now features subtle electronic, symphonic overtones, as well as chanting that brings to mind the African Savanna.

SHEL has always brought us interesting sounds and styles, touching on genres such as folk and classical, while rolling each song into an accessible, catchy package.  Here we find them going a step further, incorporating Liza’s deft beat-boxing [“Rooftop”] that previously was only displayed during their live performances.  Not only that, but after the inclusion of Led Zeppelin’s “The Battle Of Evermore” on their debut album, the ladies have decided to venture once more into rock tributes, presenting us with a truly chilling rendition of Metallica’s “Enter Sandman.”  As Metallica has been one of my favorite bands for over 15 years, I’ll admit that it was difficult for me to hear it in such a strikingly different arrangement, but the Holbrook sisters have been so creative in their approach and I can’t fault their results.  While I wouldn’t put Just Crazy Enough head and shoulders above SHEL’s previous releases, it remains as stunning as all their work has been thus far.  If you’re anything like me, Just Crazy Enough is sure to put a smile on your face.

Buy Just Crazy Enough at:  iTunes | Amazon

For more on SHEL, visit:
Official Website

CD Review: ‘The Laboratory Sessions’ by SHEL

Better B# - TAM Logo 2

The Holbrook sisters are back with SHEL’s second musical offering, entitled The Laboratory Sessions.  After a period of braving the road on tireless tours in support of their first album, these four talented ladies from Fort Collins, Colorado have presented us with a new batch of concoctions.  Somehow they managed to find time to write music in between their gigs and rigorous workout competitions, at times being forces to compose while taking shifts behind the wheel.  But now the new release is upon us and I must say, it’s quite tasty!

Warning: Side effects may include extreme musical addiction and enjoyment.

It was sheer happenstance that I stumbled upon SHEL (Sarah, Hannah, Eva, and Liza), but I’m quite happy that I did.  Within two weeks of discovering their music I was watching them perform in Washington D.C. and didn’t even own their debut album until after the concert had wrapped up.  Since then I’ve had the honor of interviewing Hannah about the band and her own solo release, become even more of a fan, and thus have eagerly awaited this follow-up album since its announcement.  The ladies used to crowd-fund the LP, and provided a great number of rewards for supporting the effort.  What I especially liked was that they offered various release packages, ranging from the bare-bones digital album & commentary bundle, an all instrumental version of the album, as well as early demos and cell-phone recorded tastes of the songs as they were just coming into being.  From bud to blossom, and from digital to the kitchen sink, the ability to get inside this album and look around was vast.


The Laboratory Sessions, when compared to the self-titled debut, feels very organic.  While the previous release was fantastic and built one strong song upon the next, the new album feels like a more united, focused effort.  The quartet haven’t abandoned the folk-rock-pop amalgamated roots that they established from their outset, so no worries there.  But Eva said something that struck me in the commentary released alongside the work, saying that as she writes more and more music, she does so “to move people.  Not to be like, ‘Look what I can do,’ but ‘Look what you can feel.’”  And this album does that, backing away from some of the showier aspects of the debut, but brimming with emotion and experience.  Take for example “You Could Be My Baby,” which sounds like a near, dear relative of The Beatles’ “Come Together,” sung with a confidence previously unheard from the girls.  On the other end of the spectrum we have “I’m Just A Shadow,” as bleak and haunting as any dirge I’ve had the pleasure of hearing.  Of course, we can’t leave without a good ole fashioned drinking song, and “Moonshine Hill” comes to our rescue.  It’s a personal favorite, I must confess.

Some of you might say, “How can the album be a united, focused effort if it goes from confident to bleak to songs about drinking?”  Well, firstly, it’s one song about drinking.  Secondly, you should go listen to the first album.  Great release, but its songs range from the circus to owls to a cover of Led Zeppelin’s “Battle Of Evermore” and then some, whereas this one focuses more on personal relationships, overcoming fears, and homesickness.  And alcohol, but that’s one song!  The only song which feels a little detached is “Lost Without You,” and this is because it features singer-songwriter Gareth Dunlop in a duet with Eva, as opposed to the four-piece Holbrook harmonies that we’ve come to know throughout the rest of the release.  But it’s a good song, so I can’t blame them for including it.


The Holbrook sisters have been busy in the last few years.  Not only have they done a ton of touring, but Hannah has released a solo piano EP, Eva has co-written several songs with the aforementioned Gareth Dunlop (the song “Hold On” made it into the movie The Best Of Me), and they have continued to write and create their own music videos for existing and new songs!  It’s amazing that they even had time to write this new album, but I suppose that’s why they sometimes chose to compose while driving from town to town.  I wouldn’t recommend trying that, kids.  The Laboratory Sessions is a welcome addition to SHEL’s growing catalog and that’s coming from a well-satisfied customer and fan.  Now is the perfect time for you to do a little experimenting of your own and see if a dash of SHEL cures your musical ills.  I’m not selling snake oil, I swear.


Buy the song, “I Was Born A Dreamer,” to help an animal in need: iTunes | Amazon
Buy the song, “You Could Be My Baby” at: iTunes
Buy the song, “When The Sky Fell” at: iTunes

For more on SHEL, visit:
Official Website

CD Review: ‘The Number 8’ by Annalisa Tornfelt

Annalisa Tornfelt is best known for being the lead singer and fiddle player for the Portland, Ore. based Black Prairie. With a large portion of Black Prairie on tour in their sister group, The Decemberists; Annalisa is releasing her first full length solo album, The Number 8. You can read more about the process of recording the album and her musical career in the recent TAM interview.

When an album can evoke a feeling in the listener, the artist has achieved something important: a connection. When that same album can transport the listener to a specific place and time, then the artist has created a unique and important collection of music. The Number 8 is just such a rarity.

The first song on The Number 8, “Scared You’re Gonna Leave,” is a short but upbeat piece with a distinctly country rhythm and theme. On it’s own, the song may not immediately transport the audience, but as it fades away and leads into “Afterlife,” something magical may happen. The listener might close their eyes and find themselves in a small bar, listening and watching Annalisa perform a solo show with her acoustic guitar.

The play order of the songs on The Number 8 is incredibly important because of the way it gently glides between country and folk. Songs like “One Heart at a Time” and “Tired of Saying Sorry” are reminiscent of the bygone era June Carter or Patsy Cline, and are spaced out and counterpointed with a folk dancing partner.

Examples of the Annalisa’s folk stylings can be found in songs like “June June Hot Air Balloon” and “Starlighting.” Finally, there are the quiet compositions like “Nothingness to Me” that are almost ethereal in their delicate sound.

The sensory transportation that is accomplished with The Number 8 can partially be credited to the fact that each song was performed and recorded at producer Mike Coykendall’s house in Portland in the span of one day. But, the fact that Annalisa has had some of these songs playing in her heart and head for the better part of 10 years is probably the single largest contributor to the album’s success as a whole.

The Number 8 is a rarity in today’s musical world. It is a quiet, pure and joyful collection of music and for fans of country, folk and acoustic music and cannot be recommended enough.

Find out more about Annalisa Tornfelt’s The Number 8 here.

For more Annalisa, check out Black Prairie as well.

Emmylou Harris opened for The Avett Brothers on night one of Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre two night residency

Emmylou Harris

Emmylou Harris


“When I started out, I was a solo folk singer who wanted to Joan Baez. I realized I couldn’t be Joan because she was already taken, so I had to find my own way.” – Emmylou Harris

This is what country is supposed to be like, in all its glory. With a bluegrass folk vibe, the Grammy winning artist, 13 and counting, Emmylou Harris shined as she opened for The Avett Brothers on their first night of a two night residency at Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre on Friday July 24. It was truly the perfect musical pairing having these two acts share the same stage.


Emmylou Harris

Emmylou Harris

“What a beautiful evening it is, perfect weather – no rain.” Emmylou Harris exclaimed to the eagerly happy audience.

With the epitome of graciousness, Harris exclaimed in a generous tone “Rodney said he wrote it for me,” as she introduced her ever popular “Even Cowboys Gets The Blues.” There’s a touch of sadness and a heart ache to the edge of Harris’ voice that melds so wonderfully with the steel guitar, especially when she sang “Michelangelo,” “Prayer in Open D” and “Green Pastures.”


The Avett Brothers

The Avett Brothers


The Americana, folk loving Avett Brothers took the Verizon Wireless stage full of so much vigor for the 24-song set list. It’s hard to imagine that anyone person, more or less an entire band, could contain the levels of pure, unadulterated vitality and fun as they leaped across the stage while pouring their hearts out with each song.

The Avett Brothers started the night off with “Satan Pulls The Strings” followed by “Talk of Indolence,” “Die Die Die,” “Shame,” “Skin and Bones,” “Pretty Girl from Cedar Lane” and “Traveling Song.” By far on of the most touching and honest moments of the night was when they performed “Rejects in the Attic,” a bittersweet ode to former love and the strife to reclaim parts of one’s self that no longer exist.

The Avett Brothers continued with “Live and Die,” “Go to Sleep,” “Will the Circle Be Unbroken” (The Carter Family Cover), “Salvation Song,” “Head Full of Doubt/Road Full of Promise,” “Find My Love,” “ I Would Be Sad,” “Let Myself Live,” “Salina,” “Tania,” “Tin Man,” “Paul Newman vs. The Demons,” “Laundry Room,” “I Killed Sally’s Lover,” “Slight Figure of Speech” and ended the night with “Open-Ended Life.”


The Avett Brothers

The Avett Brothers

For me this was the perfect accompaniment of honoring the roots of country with Emmylou Harris, while providing the taste of Americana fused Folk with The Avett Brothers. It was truly a pleasure to see both acts share the stage and provide two sets of meaningful music that touched everyone, as fans slowed danced with their partners to children being introduced to something other than contemporary top forty. It was a pleasure to dance and sing along with an overflowing Amphitheatre of fans.


 Full Photo Gallery of The Avett Brothers



Full Photo Gallery of Emmylou Harris


Smokin’ Novas release debut album with CD release party at Eddie’s Attic on July 18



Review by Danielle Boise


With the tag Americana music that moves the soul, Smokin’ Novas lives up to that statement and more with the release of the band’s self-titled debut album, which happens to be produced by Grammy award winning producer Don McCollister. The 10-tracks runs approximately 40 minutes and will fill you with every emotion possible –from the swells of sheer bliss to the pangs of a fragile heart. Smokin’ Novas masterfully fuses together the world of Americana and Folk with moments of nostalgia as the lyrics wrap intimately around the melodies to catch the listener in a truly perfect string of moments.

Smokin’ Novas start off with “Sunrise” a song filled with an earthy richness. “Crooked Smile” is that moment when you realize that you have to finally make room to fit in your life as yourself, no one else. “Wildflower Honey” by far is one of my personal favorite tracks on the album. The song is more than the tangy sweetness that the title indicates. With a true country hilt, the levels of sincerity are captured in the notes, lyrics and tone in this endearing love song with picture perfect images that causes the heart to smile and eyes to leak.

“Nightdriving” is a sexy escapism with “The mess you’ve been making is all your own design.”  Every person has created their own chaotic hell from one time to another, “Nightdriving” reminds us to just get out of our own ways and drive through it. “Monteverde Ride” is a sleek song. I love the how the strings and percussion come together tightly on this song as they roll over the senses.  The most personal song on the album is “Up on the Mountain,” which hit me hard.  A touching tribute to loss and to learning how to come to terms with a missing piece of you. One that is so profound that it rewrites who you are. Yet, in all of that learning to live again and find joy in small moments.

The last track “Rosemarie” wraps the entire album up perfect note with a charming accolade to a loved one. The entire album is rich, full and lush. One that fully activates the senses. This is a album you will want to listen to more than once, and often.

Smokin’ Novas will be playing at Eddie’s Attic for their CD release party on Friday July 18. Tickets are available through Eddie’s Attic If you are fans of The Civil Wars, John Mayer or The Lone Bellows, then this is the band for you.