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Issue #58 January 2004

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The Woggles
FFH
The Mighty Stars
Chris Daniels, The Kings And Friends
Chris Balleau & The Zydeco Hounds
Shere


The Woggles
Ragged But Right

Telstar Records
14 song CD/LP

On the cusp of a tragic loss, The Woggles have released one of their finest albums to date. In 2003, Woggles guitarist The Mighty Montague (George Montague Holton III) passed away unexpectedly due to health problems, leaving a large hole in their most solid lineup from the past 10 years. Longtime producer Jeff Walls (Hillbilly Frankenstein) will be filling in on the guitar duties. A sad loss, but the band plugs on.

With that having been said, Ragged But Right shows the band in top form, rivaling their 1993 studio milestone Teendanceparty. Known for their raw, blistering live shows, The Woggles usually come across a little tame in the studio. Their last such studio effort, Fractured came close, but with Ragged, they have been able to capture that elusive engery and package it like luncheon meat. Perhaps it was their concert album from a couple of years ago, Live At The Star Bar, that was a needed shot in the arm. Whatever they may have learned from that, it worked, because this stuff cooks.

They open up the disc with the rebel-rousing People Come On, which shifts smoothly into the pscychedelic and jangly rocker, Collector Of Broken Hearts, which is delivered with just the right amount of tongue planted in cheek. From there we get caught in an absolute firestorm with the incendiary Johnny Come Lately, which I can only imagine is a swipe at bands like The White Stripes and The Hives, who have somehow managed to popularize the minimalist style of rock music The Woggles have been pounding out for more than a decade. This feeling carries over into the driving stomp of the title track, which easily rolls right over any competition that the aforementioned "Johnnies" may present. The boys also take a shot of soul with the strutting rock of Walking My Dog, which may or may not be an honorable nod at the Rufus Thomas classic.

If anything can be said, it is definte that The Woggles have stayed true to form without compromising their original vision. If anything, they have perfected it time and time over, always keeping it fresh and exciting with every release.

MISH MASH Mandate Doin' The Montague

The Woggles Website


FFH
Ready To Fly

Essential Records
12 song CD

There's something to be said about well-crafted pop music. Whenever it's done right, it is absolutely infectious and gladly sticks in your brain for days on end. So it is with Christian rockers FFH, which stands for "Far From Home." They have obviously been studying their Beatles and Jellyfish, because their blend of pop is all about the melody. They remind me of another initial-named band from the early 90s, PFR (Pray For Rain), a band which also had the knack for punching out memorable guitar-based pop tunes.

Undoubtedly with FFH, the finest example of this is the opening track, You Found Me, a song which opens with a driving piano line and settles into a moving rock groove. Replete with a string section, the song doesn't hold back, but unleashes as much pop as it possibly can, without apology. From there, the band eases into the smooth stylings of Good To Be Free and the inspiring, sweeping piano ballad of the title track. There's a more modern sound to Never Gonna Be Alone and His Love Goes On Forever, while Waltz For Jennifer meanders along with quiet and traditional sounds.

MISH MASH Mandate Pop Praise

FFH Website


The Mighty Stars
The Mighty Stars Are Go

Avebury Records
5 song CD

Sometimes big things come in small packages, and this 5 song EP from Bristol, England's Mighty Stars is a prime example. This is pure garage punk, with a righteous nod to the mods of the late 60s and early 70s. There is just the right touch of energized pop, keeping the songs catchy and bright while maintaining an air of cool aggression.

They start off the EP with the bouncing Small Wonder, which is simple but smartly done. They jump right into Let's Play in full punk mode, only to go a little softer with the jangling guitars of Suzanne. The group rounds out the disc with the sticky sweet garage pop of Kiss! Kiss! Kiss!, a song that is delivered in a brilliantly sloppy fashion, rambling along with just the right amount of raw power.

This is one awesome EP. As a matter of fact, I would almost be afraid to hear a full-length album from these guys, because they are so suited to the EP/single format. Come to think of it, it would be great to have a stack of 45s from The Mighty Stars---ah to dream, but for now I'll keep spinning the CD.

MISH MASH Mandate: Mighty Mouse

The Mighty Stars Website


Chris Daniels, The Kings And Friends
The Spark

Moon Voyage Records
12 song CD

I must say the first thing I noticed about this album was the limited edition packaging; the CD case is made up to look like a box of matches and the inside booklet is like a book of matches, with the musician's heads taking place of the match heads. It's creative packaging at its best---and best of all, the music doesn't fail to live up to the flash.

Chris Daniels and his fellow players have their style steeped in roots rock, trapped somewhere between Southwestern blues and California jam. It's a sound which takes its own sweet time, never in a hurry and always cool. At times they remind me of the rambling country groove of the Dead (Way Out West), at others like the open-air songwriting of Jackson Browne (Kelly Jean), and then again at times they flow along like a smart Lyle Lovett tune (If I'd Only Taken You Dancing). It's not particularly original, but it's an efficient blend of styles which come together flawlessly. Mr. Daniels knows how to construct a song, and he does it well.

MISH MASH Mandate: Mosey On

Chris Daniels Website


Chris Belleau & the Zydeco Hounds
Repeat Offender

Proud Dog Records
12 song CD

All right, it's time to get down, bayou style. Chris Belleau and his Zydeco Hounds have put together one powerful zydeco album, blending the best of rock, jazz, blues, and traditional bayou music into one mighty hot sauce elixir, all the way from Baton Rouge.

Belleau and the Hounds jump right in with the groovy Bourre, a down and dirty lament concerning a scoundrel who took our singer's money and woman. From there we turn it up a notch for the quick-stepping blues of Get My Money, only to take a slow detour Way Out In The Country. Moving on, Balleau bouces along with the smiling Easy Credit Loving and Walking Back To Texas. Perhaps the most adventurous tune on the disc is the barn-burning Hot Tamale Baby, which utilizes Pocahontas-sytled drum lines and a swinging horn section.

When it comes to spicy music, it doesn't get much hotter than this. Just make sure you have a cold beverage close at hand before you take a bite.

MISH MASH Mandate: Born On The Bayou

Zydeco Hounds Website


Shere
Not Los Angeles

North Park Records
11 song CD

There's a quiet madness inside the music of Shere, a duo from California made up of David Stir and Ali Deniz Ozkan. It's minimal and quiet, trapping its angst in suppression, using only voices and ethereal keyboard sounds with the occasional bass guitar. It's as if Radiohead and The Smiths came together without the rhythm sections, only constructing the songs with raw emotion with as few instruments as possible. The end result is beautiful, but somewhat frightening, leaving behind a raw and naked feeling which is at times uncomfortable.

Stir and Ozkan open the disc with Unlike, which is delivered in a dry, half-whispered, matter-of-fact manner. A lonesome guitar played above television noise begins Living In San Diego, which eventually gives way to a dark keyboard and quiet singing. Radiohead influences surface more clearly in the off-kilter Left You There, while Not Allowed To Love comes across with a more dynamic flair, bringing up the volume above the previous tracks just a little. A patchwork of audio makes up Swimming In Cold Water, a track which features a percussive bass guitar underneath spoken words which are in an Eastern-sounding language. It's a strange mix, and the track is broken and disjointed with stops and starts, abstract and jolting in it's overall presentation. It's the climax of the album, topping of a collection of songs which is purposely unfocused and pointedly unstructured.

MISH MASH Mandate: Insomnia

North Park Records Website



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