November 27, 2010
ASBURY PARK, NJ—Nicole Atkins has always held a special allure for many, delivering a unique perspective both in her writing and her dark, signature sound.
Langosta Lounge, on the boardwalk in Asbury Park, is really more of a restaurant for eating and talking than an intimate listening room, but Pete Mantas has worked out a good balance and with Atkins on the bill, her following was the majority above the “dinning din” that made for a successful evening.
Atkins is arabesque in nature, and tonight was no exception. Going through a selection of tunes from her Columbia releases, Bleeding Diamonds EP, and the 2007 full-length, Neptune City, as well as a smattering of unique covers and songs from her upcoming release Mondo Amore, Nicole proved once more that with or without her full band, she holds her own and shines in a way that probably got her signed in the first place.
I didn’t catch the entire set, but what I saw confirmed what I’ve listed below. “They Call Me The Witch,” a song about her visit to the famed journalist Stephen Crane’s House in Asbury Park (alleged to be severely haunted) and her own slant on the residential spooks. She tells a good story, mixing enough imagery and plain English to keep hardcore fans, as well as first timers, in her game and listening for the next peculiar description of life and lore. Her melodies are wisely chosen and she never wastes a drop on unnecessary jaunts into areas that don’t fit the compositional direction, which makes for enjoyable listening.
“The Way It Is” positively blows you away every time she plays it. Acoustic or electric, it’s the apogee of Atkins’ composition and emotional accuracy, and it never misses the mark. She also did “The Great Parade,” a song that demonstrates her ongoing ability to dig deep vocally, going full and dynamic in range as she silenced the busy room on that one song alone. Her soaring mix of Roy Orbison bel canto tenor and Don McClean’s smooth, lullaby soprano tone is always a winner in my book.
Versions of Mike Nesmith’s “Different Drum” as well as Gram Parsons’ eloquent “Codine” off of Another Side Of This Life (The Lost Recordings of Gram Parsons 1965-1966) both came across with class and intelligence in a unique choice of covers.
Atkins new project is due out in January on Razor And Tie Records (distribution by Sony Music Entertainment and Sony owned RED Distribution) and is titled, Mondo Amore. Nicole is overdue for another great disc and Razor And Tie don’t look like they are going to hold her up as previously labels have. Dealing with major life changes such as label relationships, band member conflicts, love and life in general, I can only think that Mondo Amore will see Atkins at her best, exploring yet another complex direction on her road to artistic success. Stay tuned for a full review of Mondo Amore right here in the coming weeks.
For further information On Nicole Atkins and what she’s up to head over to nicoleatkins.com, and if you want to know what Pete Mantas and Langosta lounge might be bringing up next try langostalounge.com.
The Stone Pony
December 5, 2010
ASBURY PARK, NJ—They always say, “You can never go back” and while this may be true in all things of growth and love gone horribly wrong, it doesn’t apply to The Doughboys and their reversible time codes. And The Doughboys will take you way back my friends, back to the days of real garage rock and roll in the trippy vein of The Seeds, the Kinks and the 13th Floor Elevators. To really understand what brought the bands hardcore fans to the Pony on this freezing December night, one must go back and understand where the Doughboys originally came from.
Formed from the ashes of the Ascots in 1966, The Doughboys got a recording contract with Bell Records by winning the Battle Of The Bands on Zacherle’s Disc-o-teen TV show. They put out two singles titled, “Rhoda Mendelbaum” and “Everybody Knows My Name,” as the band played weekly WMCA Good Guys shows all over the tri-state area. They were the house band at the legendary Café Wha? in Greenwich Village during the summer of ‘68 as well.
The Doughboys are well-respected musicians in New Jersey and the world beyond. In the “If these walls could talk” department we have lead singer Myke Scavone, who led 1970s hard rock ensemble Ram Jam (of “Black Betty” fame); drummer Richard X. Heyman, an acclaimed singer/songwriter with seven solo albums to his credit; guitarist Gar Francis has made a name for himself as blues slinger Plainfield Slim and has done sessions with such luminaries as Billy Idol. And perhaps the most interesting resume clip comes from bassist Mike Caruso, who backed big name stars like Jimi Hendrix in the recording studio.
It’s funny, as I noticed the different people who I only see out when something interesting is in town. Avid music fans and record collectors like Jeff Wood or 90.5 FM’s famed Jeff Raspe up front, as journalists from competing publications lurked darkly in the back with pen in hand. All of these individuals are measuring sticks for what the night will hold. And The Doughboys didn’t disappoint. Going through a whopping 17 tunes, the band gave the fans their moneys worth and more on songs such as the night opener “Early Warning Wake Up,” a song that sees the band’s influential heroes like The Who and the Rolling Stones, bluesy, dynamic verses and bridges that build into Scavone’s raspy Tom Petty tone as Francis slices thick slabs of guitar accent to announce the coming of the chorus. Caruso and Heyman are rock solid here, driving the rhythm straight up the rock and roll highway throughout.
“Black Sheep” was a pounding romp down grunge/garage avenue. Featuring the raw bite of vocalist Myke Scavone, “Black Sheep” is sliced, diced and deep-fried twice through the stratocaster conundrums of Gar Francis and his Keith Richards approach to grinding out dirty custom chords and ringing tones. Think John Loudermilk’s “Tobacco Road” and you would be in the right ballpark. Hey, if it isn’t broke, don’t try to fix it. The Doughboys are consummate performers and their presence comes across simplistic and powerful like a Chevy 350 on stage.
Some other memorable numbers were the Christmas song Gar Francis wrote under the moniker Jackie Kringle And The Elves. “Rockin’ Christmas” is a fun little number in the upbeat vein of Paul Revere and The Raiders. Featuring fast verses and guitar driven accents, “Rockin’ Christmas” hides nothing complicated and it worked well as per the bopping heads in the crowd. Even yours truly, who is a grumpy, holiday-hating bastard managed a bit of a head nod here and there. Great harmonica’s came courtesy of Scavone.
“Sidetracked” is rock and roll boot camp and it blew off the stage with all the seasoned power of a rock band that has used the last three decades to hone their songs into badass emotion producing sound bytes. When a band can send chills up the spine with a choice of chord or melody, they are completely successful in their craft as The Doughboys were tonight.
Ending with a selection of covers, including the Stones own “Paint It Black” and songs by the legendary Bo Didley, The Doughboys prove that yes, you can go back while moving forward in time. And like many other survivors profiled here, The Doughboys prove that things do get better and better with experience and preservation of rock and roll tradition. New material is forthcoming. Go check out their history and music at thedoughboysnj.com.