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Vol 8, Issue 39 Aug 8-Aug 14, 2002
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Locals Only: Disc-o Fever
Also This Issue

A look at some notable local CD releases from the past few months

BY MIKE BREEN

Periodically, we miss getting reviews in of local CDs when they're initially released, either because of space constraints, scheduling conflicts or timeliness. But we still want to let the listening public know about worthy locally-produced albums. We'll be using this space to catch up on the best local CDs from time to time. Here's the latest batch, submitted for your approval.

In the Rough is the debut album from Cincinnati's Diamond Blue. The veteran musicians of Diamond Blue are all singers and songwriters, which lends In the Rough a distinct diversity that skips from Rock to Country to Folk, with occasional elements of Celtic and Blues thrown in for good measure. At their core, the songs on In the Rough are polite, enunciated and well-crafted, with the acoustic accoutrements (fiddles, mandolins, guitars) lending an earthy, endearing quality. One of the band's strongest suits is their proficient harmony skills, which are especially sharp on "Coat Pocket," one of the album's more creative tracks from a songwriting standpoint, meshing Doo Wop harmonies, Beatles-y structures (a sitar!) and an innocent Folk/Pop charm. Other highlights include the sweeping, urgent Celtic Folk of "Everything and Nothing," and the plaintive, lush "In My Heart." You can catch Diamond Blue this Friday at 7 p.m. at the Starbucks in Fort Thomas, KY.

Local Jazz duo Paul Hawthorne (vocals, vibes) and Don Steins (piano, sax, flute) enlisted local musicians Danny Cecil (bass), Philip Paul (drums), Jeff Dobbins (percussion) and Bill Gemmer (trombone) for their slick, new self-titled CD. The album mostly consists of standards ("Over the Rainbow," "Night and Day"), delivered with precision and a lounge-y cool. Because of its velvety demeanor, one could call this Smooth Jazz (as Oscar Treadwell does in the liner notes). But the duo refreshingly doesn't rely on that synthesized, cold sound that seems to exemplify Contemporary Jazz these days. Instead, the band goes for an organic, traditional feel, with the production so intimate you can occasionally hear the pop of Cecil's fingers pulling the strings of his upright. The Pop standards are done lovingly and with soul, but they also masterfully glide across elegant arrangements of Jazz classics like "Scrabble From the Apple" (featuring a deft workout on the vibraphone from Hawthorne) and the Calypso-infused "St. Thomas" by Sonny Rollins. Hawthrone and Steins perform Thursdays at the Celestial, and they will be at Margo's Restaurant this Saturday.

You won't be able to catch local Indie Rock group The Minor Leagues this weekend because, well, they don't play live shows just yet. The group was started last year as a songwriting outlet for Ben Walpole. Since Walpole wasn't a musician -- writing songs and arrangements by putting them on a pocket tape recorder -- he enlisted friend Patrick Helmes to be his musical eyes and ears (they are currently looking for other musicians to form a live version of the band). It sounds like an inevitable disaster, but the duo's debut release, Be Kind To Beginners, is actually pretty amazing. The record is charmingly playful, especially on the punk-ish "Bohemian by the Numbers," with its spoken break-down, and "Plate Tectonics," a buoyant little Pop ditty with a dissertation on the title subject as an outro. But while the group can be frisky and you sometimes feel like you've stepped into an inside joke, Walpole's songwriting and Helmes' arranging abilities save the album from novelty status. This is solid stuff from start to finish. Highlights are plentiful, including "Cigarette Baby," a winking anti-smoking anthem with a candy-store Stooges vibe, and the album closer "End," an ultra lo-fi bouncer that has a little of that Strokes-ian magic. As far as homemade Indie Pop goes, The Minor Leagues do it as well as anybody. Here's hoping they get that live band going and it's as ridiculously irresistible as Be Kind To Beginners. If you want more info on the band (and you should), check out http://www.minorleaguesmusic.com/.

Another Do-It-Yourself gem comes from local sonic manipulator Klarc Qent. The disc, Erroneous Data (plus), is largely an aural collage of found sounds, drawn from clips of old recordings, radio programs (including Cincy's own Chris and Rob) and television broadcasts, and blended together in the vein of like-minded artists like Negativland. Those samples are strewn in an almost musical fashion across the course of the CD, which is split between the title piece (over 14 tracks), the devilish "Satan," and "Angry Red Planet." The last piece on the CD, "Stockhausen 3thausen," is an interpretation/conglomeration of four compositions by experimental music icon, Karlheinz Stockhausen. Qent also layers in the occasional live instrument, including guitars and "percussion" (washtubs and toys, mostly). The avant-garde album is a sonic assailment of the senses, alternately amusing, annoying and frightening. The samples come at lightning speed, so if you're listening with headphones, be aware that the listening experience can be a bit dizzying and disorienting. But in a good way -- it's aural art that makes you feel. If you'd like a copy of the disc, contact Qent at klarcqent@37.com or write Klarc Quent, P.O. Box 58674, Cincinnati, OH 45258.

E-mail Mike Breen

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Previously in Locals Only

Modern rockers take their determination and progressive approach to the limit By Mike Breen (August 1, 2002)

Unique power trio seeks an open-minded audience in a conservative-minded city Interview By Mike Breen (July 25, 2002)

These newcomers want you to think for yourself By Mike Breen (July 18, 2002)

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Other articles by Mike Breen

Spill It Blues-Crazy Weekend (August 1, 2002)

Short Takes New music from The Flaming Lips, Rosey and Superdrag (July 25, 2002)

Spill It Boss Tributes (July 25, 2002)

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