Smith & Jones, Nikki Lane and Cassettes that Matter

Tom Smith

tom smith | make green bay weird | nov. 2015

Alias Smith & Jones with Pablo on Percussion

“Debut – Farewell"

Jewel T

Timebomb Rating: 11 of 13

The review for the following record has been in the planning stages for many months now. This past spring, Jeff Jones Miller of AS&J asked me if I'd consider reviewing it for Frankly Green Bay. I said, “Sure, why not?" I know this CD actually came out a little bit ago, but I'd never noticed much local publicity on it. Things kept getting in the way and I kept putting off writing the review. I was feeling kind of guilty about this because when I say I'll do something, I really like to follow through.

When reading the liner notes for “Debut – Farewell," I discovered the CD was 25 years in the making. What a relief — if it took 25 years for the album, what's a few months wait for a review? AS&J consists of Kevin Smith Watt on guitar/vocals, Paul Pablo Hendricks on percussion and Jeff Jones Miller on guitar/vocals. Jeff, of course, is woven into the fabric of the Green Bay music scene and community with his decades of promoting shows, booking bands and organizing music festivals. I first met Jeff at the Carlton West. I have Jeff to thank for one of my fondest musical memories of high school when I saw at the Carlton West: Metallica (Ride the Lightening tour), W.A.S.P. and Armored Saint. A memory that sticks with me from the show that is sad but true, some members of the audience left after W.A.S.P. before Metallica played.

“Debut – Farewell" contains 11 tracks recorded at 11 different studios. This doesn't hinder the continuity of the album, and actually, for a number of reasons it makes this album unique. This album sounds like it was recorded in the 21st century trying to sound like it was recorded in the '80s trying to sound like it was recorded in the '70s. “Debut – Farewell" starts out with “Jump In" which has a Taj Mahal backed by Booker T. and the M.G.'s vibe. “Song from the Heart" reminds me of Gerry Rafferty, but sadder and more flute ridden. “Temptation" forces me to envision Van Morrison backed by Blues Traveler. “Plastic House," my favorite song on the album, seems to spirit channel a very relaxed Warren Zevon jamming with David Lindley. “Flag Still Flies" is co-written by Jeff Jones Miller with Mitch Ryder (yes, THAT MITCH RYDER). But wait, there's more! Joey Molland (of Badfinger) plays guitar on this track. “I Look to Be"—this recording pulls off an amazing feat by reuniting Buddy Miles and Billy Cox in their first recording session together in 13 years. Buddy and Billy, of course, played with Jimi Hendrix in Band of Gypsies. Buddy left this plane of existence five months after this recording session. Harvey Mendel plays lead guitar on this track. Harvey, circa 1975, was one of the guitarists trying to replace Mick Taylor in the Rolling Stones. Recorded in Nashville, I must say, pretty impressive for a group from Green Bay to pull this off. “Roller Coaster," a total rocker that comes off like Grand Funk Railroad but substitutes soul for funk and features smoking lead guitar from Joey Molland. “All Down the Road" is actually recorded at Abbey Road Studios. Impressed I am. How did they pull this off?

Reading the liner notes, I see they accomplished this while attending a rock and roll fantasy band camp. Rock and roll fantasy band camp, you say? Makes me need to wonder out loud if at any point in this process Mick Jagger yells, “Simson!" This song even has a Beatles-esque quality about it. “Debut – Farewell" comes with a bonus CD containing eight tracks. Two of the tracks on the bonus CD feature Bob Balsley on guitar. Bob is one of the nicest guys in the world and is the man responsible for me passing statistics at UWGB. The Exclusive Company Green Bay does stock this album.

Nikki Lane

“All or Nothin'"

New West Records

Timebomb Rating: 13 of 13

I listened to “All or Nothin'" and I go, “Wow! How come no one ever told me that Gram and Emmylou Harris had a daughter and her name was Nikki Lane?" I am also flashed back to when I first listened to Lone Justice. I also wonder if at Wrestlemania next year in Texas, Neko Case will be defending her title against Nikki Lane. If so, we will have a new champion. The last country album I fell in love with so immediately like this was “Your Favorite Fool" by Rex Hobart and the Misery Boys. I was already all in on this album before I noticed the wonderful production was done by Dan Auerbach (of the Black Keys — you know, that band Jim Runge tour manages?). Dan duets on “Love's on Fire." This album is brilliant from start to finish and I'm so excited to see her at the Lyric Room on Saturday, November 14th. I don't know why Nikki Lane isn't huge, but I sure would love to see Green Bay pack the house and make Green Bay Nikki Lane country.

Bruiser Queen

“Let's Fall in Love Again All Over – Home Demos 2010–2015"

Certified PR Records

Timebomb Rating: 13 of 13

Ladies and gentlemen, I'm here to tell you that the pride of St. Louis, Bruiser Queen, are releasing a cassette for Cassette Store Day entitled “Let's Fall in Love Again All Over – Home Demos 2010-2015." After listening to this release and perusing the list of other releases on Cassette Store Day, I have come to the conclusion that this is the only Cassette That Matters. The title of this release is very apropos because even though I've seen this band live a number of times, this release has re-energized my love for them. Maybe I was just taking them for granted, but these home recordings are heavy hitters. Take my word; this cassette comes off as a new release. Bruiser Queen, composed of Morgan Nusbaum on guitar and vocals and Jason Potter on drums has an uncluttered, no frills, garage rock and roll sound that lends itself to home recordings. I'm not in the school of thought that a great rock and roll record has to be recorded at Abbey Road Studios with fraking Alan Parsons engineering it. This cassette starts out with “Don't Waste Your Summer," which comes off as the Pixies playing Goner Fest after eating at Gus's Fried Chicken.

“Telepathic Mind," recorded this past April, reads as the whole “you got your chocolate in my peanut butter/you got your peanut butter in my chocolate" debate, but replace the ingredients with X and the Cramps. Another track that really jumps out to me is “Hooked on Sympathy." This song has the vibrancy and energy that reminds me of when I first listened to the Gits. I can't wait to see them again in Green Bay in December at the Lyric Room with Holly and the Nice Lions, the Foamers? and Silent Drape Runners. I guarantee you this will be the only cassette I stock in the record store I manage on Cassette Store Day, because this is the Only Cassette That Matters. #CassetteLivesMatter

Live long and go see Nikki Lane.

Since 1984, when he first began selling records at Galaxy of Sound inside the Port Plaza Mall, Tom Smith has been part of the Green Bay music scene. Promoting his first show 1986 and hitting his stride with the Concert Café (1995-2001), Smith continues to promote shows in Green Bay. He first honed his journalistic chops while serving as a student DJ at WGBW, interviewing such icons as Motörhead and the Ramones. Today you can find him championing live music and managing The Exclusive Company in Green Bay.

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