Deena Shoshkes—Somewhere In Blue
I can remember when The Cucumbers were at the height of popularity, playing alongside The Bongos, the Feelies and many others, and causing quite a commotion with the 1987 Profile Records release of “My Boyfriend,” a song that got extensive play time on MTV. It was also an important industry event as Profile was a rap label that made a bold move (for the time) by scooping up some white, suburban pop rockers and releasing their disc to critical acclaim. Being in the same general music scene at the time, we all knew that they were on the fast track. With over 15 recordings, as well as television and movie credits to their name, they managed to survive over the years as a hardcore duo (they’ve had several drummers and bass players) and continue making the music that they so evidently love to play.
Somewhere In Blue is the debut solo disc that shows singer Deena Shoshkes stepping away from The Cucumbers name tag and into her own comfy, country pop pajama party. Twelve songs ranging from the velvety, tremolo-drenched title track to the Cukes inspired pop rock of “Mr. Midnight” and some pretty damn convincing country this side o’ Nashville tell me that Deena just loves exploring.
And Somewhere In Blue is just that, an exploration of sound, color and feeling all seamlessly rolled into a single disc of likeable continuity. When I first read that there were four producers and at least three locations used to do this I thought, “Oh boy, I’m gonna hear the disconnections,” but I’m happy to say, they don’t exist on this disc.
I think the most interesting part of her direction is her foray into folk and country-oriented composition. Her eyes were widely opened to the down home sounds of country, southern rock and traditional folk by Tennessee-based lyricist David Graham. Graham contributed to four tunes on the disc and his music history wanderings with Deena have paid off well. And before you start saying, “Well, she’s from Jersey, what the hell does she know about anything?” Jackson Browne, Valerie Carter and Jonatha Brooke have all recorded Deena’s songs.
I like the casual feel that Shoshkes created with her choice of tracks on Somewhere In Blue. This CD reminds me that the days of worrying about what record company guys want are long gone as far as commercial strategies, replacing that unreachable carrot with stark human emotion and the unique art of do-it-yourself ingenuity.
Opening track “Somewhere In Blue” is probably my favorite, painting deliciously outside the blue velvet lines and drawing you into the dusty Claudine Longet lounge shuffle, covering you in dark, reverb-drenched guitars, ninth chords and the dream trance emotion of Shoshkes’ soul stirring voice.
The Go Go’s feel of “Mr. Midnight” is an upbeat rock popper with four-four drum work and some cool ‘80s tinged background vox and flanger swirled guitar work. “Gemini Guy” is pure alterna-hip fun with its country-tinged chorus, keeping this rocker closely inside the new country cross-over territory and sure to be an XM radio favorite. I’m not sure who’s playing lead on this one but it’s Drive-By Truckers tasty!
The good time Tammy Wynette feel of “Why Do Hearts Grow Cold,” “Rambling Dave,” and “That Moons Got It Made,” roll into town on the truck stop bending steel of Jonathan Gregg and the songbird smooth voice of Shoshkes leads the way, leaving the listener with a new perspective of the writer and the feeling that she’s headed into a whole new musical direction with this disc.
Utilizing long time friends Pat Karwan (1910 Fruitgum Co.), Stone Jack Jones, Jonathan Gregg (pedal steel guru), Brian Wolfe (My Brightest Diamond) and Tom Cottone (The Churchills). Deena also chose long time friend and producer Roger Moutenot (producer of Yo La Tengo and mixing for Lou Reed, Roseanne Cash, Paula Cole and others) to do a couple songs down in Nashville for this project as well as her own production in conjunction with “The Laughing Boys,” Tom Lucas and Ed Iglewski.
Somewhere In Blue is a great effort by a songwriter who has paid her dues while walking a mile in a lot of shoes, and with this latest she’s found the most comfortable fit to continue on her interesting journey. Deenashoshkes.com.
Black President—Asbury Lanes—April 23 and the Bouncing Souls celebrate their 20th on May 9
The Bouncing Souls are legendary over on Asbury’s Fourth Avenue. The Lanes has always been serious about their punks and the Bouncing Souls are reigning kings here, playing numerous shows throughout the Lanes history. They are a band that’s famous for giving back as much as they get from their fans. With over 22 records to their credit, this is one of a handful of survivors that still get off on what they do. The group is coming to The Asbury Lanes to celebrate 20 years of “Jersey Style” punk, but this time they’ll just be stopping by on their way across the wastelands of Middle America with tour opener Black President.
The Souls are celebrating their longevity with a fan-pleasing release of a new tune on the first of each month for the entire year as well as offering 7” vinyl in quarterly compilations on their own Chunksaah Records. Also in the news, The Bouncing Souls are working out the kinks of their 20-year anniversary TV variety show special, to be done in segments along with a video for the song “Airport Security.” The TV special is supposed to have all kinds of goodies. There’s a ventriloquist, a juggler, dancers, a dancing robot, a drugged up host, our friend POS, and a special guest appearance by the one and only Ali Hassan.
Black President is an L.A. punk outfit that has released their hand grenade of non-partisan political shrapnel into the lap of the masses. While sporting a name that gets them more attention than they really want (yeah, right) the band explains that it has nothing to do with the current Whitehouse Prez and goes as far to say that they were thinking more along the lines of Chuck D or even Shaft when they came up with the quizzical moniker.
Whatever the case, they’ve got a blistering hot song, “Last Fucking Hope,” and a great debut album on Cobra Music and they’re fresh off a successful jaunt with T.S.O.L. Black President show no signs of taking a breather as they continue on the road after a trek of southern dates with Bouncing Souls.
Black President is made up of Charlie Paulson; best remembered as the guitarists in that little band called Goldfinger, as well as vocalist/guitarist Christian Martucci (formerly of The Strychnine Babies and Dee Dee Ramone’s band) and former TSOL drummer Dave Raun, who will be joining The Black Presidents full time replacing original drummer Roy Mayorga when he’s done with the T.S.O.L. duties. Blackpresidentmusic.com.
Black President perform at Asbury Lanes on April 23 before coming back with The Bouncing Souls on May 9 before winding it up in Farmingdale, NY, on May 10, for information on their monthly downloads, TV show shenanigans and other Bouncing Bargains, head over to their label site at chunksaah.com or acknowledge their hailing frequency at thebouncingsouls.com.