Record of the Week: Mike Montrey Band’s “John Street”
“John Street” is an extremely special and well-made project that is by far the best album Mike Montrey ever has made, including the two with Water

I’ve always liked how Mike Montrey Band can get downright down home, like Neil Young, depending on the track and its arrangement. Montrey does that with his new masterpiece, John Street, but particularly flexes his Young muscles with the help of sought-after session player Dave Pearlman on pedal steel and dobro. An exceptional lead guitarist in his own right, Montrey leaves most of the lead parts to Pearlman and focuses on some tasty pickin’ ‘n’ strummin’ on acoustic and the best use of a whistle since Otis Redding’s “Sitting on the Dock of the Bay.”

A great deal of help also comes from two Grammy winners: producer-engineer Jim Scott (Wilco, Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, Santana, and Tedeschi Trucks Band) and keyboardist John Ginty (Robert Randolph & the Family Band, Citizen Cope). With his signature Hammond B3, Ginty helps Montrey pour his soul into this record, while Scott also gets fantastic performance out of longtime Montrey bassist Anthony Duca and co-vocalist Jen Augustine and new drummer Rob Smith. He weaves them all together nicely with a wonderful sense of timing that heightens the emotions of each of the songs, such as with the steel guitar and whistle that come in after a cacophony that seems like a false ending on “Slow and Easy.” Scott also contributes a fun toy piano on tracks.

The many excellent duets and counter harmonies Augustine offers on about half of the 11-song album is another high point. Her smoky alto complements Montrey’s soulful, scratchy falsetto beautifully, especially on the fun-hearted “Coffee and Suspenders,” the call-and-response of “Everytime the Sun Begins to Show,” the aforementioned “Slow and Easy,” the Neil Young-inspired “Aether and Chaos, Beauty and Wine,” and “I Am a Freight Train,” which recalls Kid Rock and Sheryl Crow.

John Street also features some of Montrey’s strongest lyrics, such as on the opening angst of “Blanket Full of Dust,” “So can you hear me now/I’m screaming with my voice worn down/My soul is tired, but it’s full of hope/And leaps and bounds/I need a railing to hold onto before I hit the ground/I need a chisel and some sandpaper to scrape away the rust/And stagger towards my blanket full of dust.”

I also like the visual line in “Coffee and Suspenders,” “Like chameleons in the forest haze/We’re dancing in our own charade/Disguised in the afternoon.” And then there’s a harvest of gold in two Neil Young-inspired tracks. In the aforementioned “Aether,” Montrey shares, “Sometimes I think that it’s all just a sham/Hour by hour, minute by minute, through each grain of sand/One second you’re older, one second you told her, one second you ran/And in an instant he grew up, before you knew what, who, where or when.” And then in “For Her,” he pines, “You leave that window closed for rain/Always ready for the doom/Impending pain/But you left your dreams outside to rot/Like it or not.”

This is the first album of the year to make me think about my Top 10 list. I am very confident that John Street will sit there all year long. Check it out with Mike Montrey Band’s new live pedal steel player, Steve Benson, when they celebrate the release of John Street on Mar. 2 at the Wonder Bar in Asbury Park opening for Gregg Allman Band guitarist, Scott Sharrard, and Mar. 3 at John & Peter’s in New Hope. Tour dates will include Mar. 14 and 15 at SXSW in Austin; Mar. 23 and 24, Cape May Singer-Songwriter Festival; Mar. 28, Bitter End, New York City; Apr. 26, Elbo Room, Chicago, and May 25, Shakedown Bar, Vail, Colo.

STREAM Mike Montrey Band “Coffee and Suspenders”

STREAM MMB “Blanket Full of Dust”

Makin Waves Scene Report with Nalani & Sarina, Jersey Rock, Colossal Street Jam, Karen Mansfield, The Dead Flowers and more
Also featured in this week’s Scene Report are Billy Bash 2018, Lowlight, Secret Sound, Little Vicious, Hot Blood, Erotic Novels, Shoobies, Windows of Understanding, Sink Tapes, Mint 400 Records, Spider Rockets, Arts Council of Princeton, and Douglass Dresher’s “Inheritance of the Saints.”

If you’re a Millennial, and you’ve heard the words, “You’re too young and inexperienced,” during a job interview, the super awesome Flemington-based twin duo Nalani & Sarina have written an anthem for you! The funky soul-pop sisters’ new single, “Young and Inexperienced,” is a powerful, yet extremely entertaining stab at a power structure that doesn’t seem to want to hire college loan-burdened Millennials for a decent job unless it’s to help with hi-tech gizmos that they can’t understand.

In anticipation of the springtime release of full-length album, Nalani & Sarina have built a buzz for “Young & Inexperienced,” including appearances in Billboard and the New York Post, on Sirius XM and 1450 WCTC’s “Jersey Central with Bert Baron,” and being named one of the 31 need-to-hear Jersey bands by NJ.com and The Star-Ledger. Despite a large amount of label interest, the lasses have chosen to remain fiercely independent with their new Telepathy Records, distributed by Kobalt Music, which also publishes and licenses their songs.

Nalani & Sarina have a slew of shows coming up, including Jan. 25 at Loyola University in Baltimore; Jan. 26, Kelly’s Logan House, Wilmington; Jan. 27, The Four Crows, New Hope; Feb. 2, SoFar Sounds, New York City; a showcase in L.A. on Feb. 20, and the Makin Waves 30th Anniversary Party on March 31 at the Wonder Bar in Asbury Park. They also will appear live on March 5 on “One More with Brian Erickson” and March 25 on “Danny Coleman’s Rock on Radio,” as well as Feb. 1 on “What’s Next with Danny Coleman” …

STREAM Nalani & Sarina

95.9 The Rat, Yuengling and Shore Point Distributing Co. will present The 2018 Jersey Rock Showcase Series, featuring five free shows with “Jersey Rock” artists and $3 Yuengling specials on Thursday nights this winter. Here’s the rundown: Feb. 1, The Downtown, Red Bank, with The Vansaders, Vextion, and Deal Casino; Feb. 8, The Brighton Bar, Long Branch, with Dinosaur Eyelids, Ruby Bones, and Corevalay; Feb. 22, Wonder Bar with The Carousers, Roulette, The Ones You Forgot and special guests:  Lance Larson and Matt O’Ree Band; March 1, The Saint,  Asbury Park, with Above The Moon, The Skullers, and Wicked Hollow, and March 8, River Rock, Brick, with Taylor Tote Band, Bobby Mahoney and The Seventh Son, and Wynward. Tune into “Jersey Rock” on 95.9 The Rat at 11:30 p.m. Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays to hear from the artists rocking 95.9 The Rat’s Jersey Rock Showcase series. Here’s the on-air schedule: Jan. 25, The Vansaders; Jan. 30, Vextion; Jan. 31, Deal Casino; Feb. 1, Dinosaur Eyelids; Feb. 6, Ruby Bones; Feb. 7, Corevalay; Feb. 13, The Carousers; Feb. 14, Roulette; Feb. 15, The Ones You Forgot; Feb. 20: Lance Larson; Feb. 21, Matt O’Ree Band; Feb. 22, Above the Moon; Feb. 27, The Skullers; Feb. 28, Wicked Hollow; Mar. 1, Taylor Tote; Mar. 6, Bobby Mahoney and the Seventh Son, and Mar. 7, Wynward …

STREAM Colossal Street Jam

Congrats to Colossal Street Jam, whose comeback album after a 20-year hiatus, Living Free, was named Independent Album of the Year by Banks Radio Australia. A single, “Just Take Hold,” was released on Jan. 11 in anticipation of Colossal’s next LP. The band will play Mar. 20 at the Cutting Room in New York City and Mar. 31 at the Makin Waves 30th Anniversary Party with Sutton Thomas Band, Mike Daly & the Planets, Mike Brody vs. the People, Tom Kanach, Karen Mansfield, Paul Whistler, Nalani & Salina, The Vansaders, Solace, and DJ Lee Mrowicki, the voice of “Radio Jersey” …

STREAM Karen Mansfield

Speaking of Karen Mansfield, her long-awaited LP, Thistle & Boon, will be released on Feb. 14. Helmed by Joss Stone producer Steve Greenwell, the 10-song collection features performances by Spin Doctors drummer Aaron Comess; Jack Daley, bassist to Prince, Michael Jackson, and Lenny Kravitz; Mark Hudson guitarist Jay Shepard; Peter Gabriel guitarist Jimmy Farkas, Splintered Sunlight keyboardist Billy Siegel, and singer-songwriter Emily Grove on backing vocals. The frequently played single, “There Was a Girl,” was named one of the 10 biggest Jersey songs of 2017. Karen also will perform at Billy Bash 2018 on Feb. 3 at VFW Post 2230, Kenilworth. Look for a Record of the Week here on Mar. 1 …

Other performers who will benefit the Community Food Bank of New Jersey at Billy Bash are Everlounge, featuring Don Dazzo, The Movers, Brother John Brown, Bitter Crush, Blue Highways performing a tribute to The Cars, Bash Allstars performing The Beatles “Magical Mystery Tour,” Alan Grant, Anthony Krizan, Tom Kanach, Kevin Hill of Secret Sound, Chris Brown and many more. A $25 donation includes food from Tony’s Traveling Trattoria. Canned good donations are encouraged …

STREAM Dead Flowers

Congrats to the Stone Pony’s Rock to the Top winners The Dead Flowers, who nabbed $2,500 in cash, $1,000 in promotional services from Bands on a Budget, a 5×3-foot vinyl banner, 1,000 Static Indie Cards, 250 11×17 full-color tour posters, 500 4×6 2-side full-color postcards, 500 stickers on a roll, 50 black Gildan T-shirts, multi-track live recording of finals show, headline show and opening spot for major national act at the Pony, and photo shoot with Jeff Crespi Rocks. In addition to their soon-to-announced Pony shows, The Dead Flowers will be performing at a couple of upcoming New Brunswick basement shows with Green Knuckle Material and WATERMEDOWN, and Sundays starting Feb. 11 at Kelly’s Korner, New Brunswick; including Apr. 8 when they also play with Green Knuckle Material, Offkey Lifestyle and ManDancing for Hub City Music Festival’s efforts to add to the $15,000 it has raised during the past five years for the Elijah’s Promise food justice and empowerment program. Look for an interview here soon to coincide with that show and the return to the Stone Pony …

Congrats also go to Shoobies, who, as Rock to the Top runner-up, won $1,000 in cash, $500 in Bands on a Budget promo, a 5×3-foot full color vinyl banner, 1,000 Static Indie Cards, 50 11×17 full-color tour posters, 30 black Gilden T-shirts with one color and one location imprint, multi-track live recording of finals show, opening spot for major national act at the Pony, and a photo shoot with Jeff Crespi Rocks. Shoobies will play Feb. 24 at the Brighton Bar …

STREAM Secret Sound

Also coming to the Pony are Secret Sound once again, this time on Feb. 2 to celebrate the release of a self-titled EP. Recorded at Brickwindow Studio by Erik Anderson, Secret Sound features an eclectic mix of styles, including a James Brown funk feel, Daft Punk-inspired dance beats, and a ‘70s Waylon Jennings-esque swamp country song about fishing and racial equality. Sharing the bill will be Stone Pony house band Mad Kings, plus Mojo Hand and Ignite the Atmosphere. Several special guests will be jamming with Secret Sound, including Sandy Mack, Mad Kings’ Jimmy Law, and former members J-Pat on harmonica and Andrew Gialanella on guitar. Secret Sound also will perform Jan. 26 at Barca City Lounge, New Brunswick; Feb. 17, Dive Coastal Bar, Rumson; Mar. 3, Jamian’s, Red Bank, and March 23, Stanhope House. Look for a Record of the Week here in the spring …

The Asbury alt-roots rock band Lowlight will release a three-song EP, Born to Run, to coincide with a spring tour with the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame act The Pretenders. Tour dates are Mar. 25, The Fillmore, Miami; Mar. 27, North Charleston PAC in South Carolina; Mar. 28, Peace Center, Greenville, S.C.; Mar. 30, Count Basie Theatre, Red Bank; Mar. 31, Tower Theater, Upper Darby, Pa.; Apr. 1, The Orpheum, Boston. An obvious nod to New Jersey’s favorite son, the record contains traces of Bruce Springsteen, while remaining true to Lowlight’s trademark roadhouse chic sound of equal parts synth pop and alt-country. The jangly opener “Sleep Wounds,” the 10-minute instrumental “Birdman’s Last Ride,” and the outstanding “Nights and Weekends” also might be heard at other upcoming shows Jan. 27, Old Franklin Schoolhouse, Metuchen, with RocknRoll HiFives and Coach N’ Commando; Feb. 17, Stone Pony with The Battery Electric, The Vansaders, Little Vicious, and Strange Eclipse; Mar. 17, John & Peter’s, New Hope; Apr. 7, Metro Gallery, Baltimore, and Apr. 8, Scarlet Pub, New Brunswick … 

STREAM Little Vicious

The rock ‘n’ roll duo Little Vicious recently recorded a new record with Bouncing Souls guitarist Pete Steinkopf of Little Eden Studios. A follow-up to the 2016 LP, Little Vicious I, and several 2017 singles, a Mar. 23 release is anticipated with a show at Asbury Park Brewery also featuring The Double Negatives and Goodfight. In between that and the aforementioned Pony show, Little Vicious also will play Feb. 22 at the Gutter Bar in New York City. Look for a Record of the Week here to preview the Mar. 23 show.

STREAM Hot Blood

Also produced by Steinkopf, as well Chris Pierce at New Brunswick’s Volume IV, are Hot Blood, whose fourth release will be a 17-track outing mastered by Alan Douches (Monster Magnet, Kool & the Gang). While the band shops the full-length debut, upcoming shows will include Jan. 26, Asbury Park Brewery with Static Radio and Nervous Triggers; Houston & the Dirty Rats’ record release party, Jan. 27, Spin Me Round, Phillipsburg, also with Rockstar Racecar; Feb. 10, Asbury Park Music Foundation with Mom Fight; Feb. 19, basement show in Eldora; Feb. 23, Court Tavern, with Splatterhouse, and Mar. 3, Goldsounds, Bushwick section of Brooklyn …

Also recorded by Chris Pierce at Volume IV are the New Brunswick-based punk band Erotic Novels, who recently signed with GTG Records. A 10-song album will be released in the spring. Upcoming performances include Feb. 3 at Millhill Basement, Trenton, for a “Mixtape Nation” show with Alpha Rabbit, Brian Erickson and Caruso, and Mar. 11, the Court Tavern, New Brunswick, which is a “Weekend Quality” show also featuring Mikey Erg Band, Nervous Triggers and Slow Death. The “Weekend Quality” podcast is run by members of the band, which recently was featured on “Mixtape Nation” with a new song called “Joan Jett” …

“Windows of Understanding” drawing by Arianna Meneses of the New Brunswick Middle School Art Club is on view at Costa Chica Restaurant, New Brunswick.

The New Brunswick Community Arts Council, Mason Gross School of the Arts at Rutgers University and the Highland Park Arts Commission are presenting through Feb. 15 “Windows of Understanding.” The public art installation unites local artists, organizations and businesses to promote compassion and awareness around social justice issues with the community. About two dozen storefront windows throughout New Brunswick and Highland Park are showcasing works of art that address cultural identity, faith-based initiatives, environmental conservation, homelessness, food insecurity and youth mentoring. Most installations are on view along Church, George, and French streets in New Brunswick, as well as Raritan Avenue in Highland Park. The project launched on Martin Luther King Jr. Day as a way of paying homage to his legacy. Community partners include New Brunswick Free Public Library, New Brunswick Tomorrow, Muslim Feminists for the Arts, PRAB, Coming Home Middlesex, Elijah’s Promise, coLAB Arts and the Lower Raritan Watershed Partnership …

All hail the return of Sink Tapes, whose absence has been far too long, but whose return includes a new LP on Feb. 16 on Mint 400 Records. Their 17th release since 2010, but first since early 2016, coincides with shows on Feb. 24 at Piano’s, New York City, with label mates Cyclone Static, SHRB, Tony Saxon, and The Components; Mar. 20, Pet Shop Bar, Jersey City, with label mates Tri-State, as well as Joy Cleaner; Apr. 20, The Saint, Asbury Park, and May 25, Stosh’s, Fair Lawn …

In other Mint 400 news,  recent releases include The Clydes’ “Broken Boy” single and The Components’ Continuum LP. Tony Saxon’s Old Souls and Long Term Goals LP drops Jan. 26, followed by Yawn Mower’s “Waffle House” single on Feb. 2, a SHRB LP on Feb. 9, and an Ancient Babies EP on Feb. 23. Later on, an EP by Yawn Mower and LPs by The Lampshades, The French Goodbye, The Limbos and Son of the Velvet Rat will grace the musical landscape. Other upcoming Mint 400 shows include Feb. 16, Stosh’s Fair Lawn, with John Cozz, Joy Cleaner, Ruby Bones, and Guilty Giraffe; Feb. 22, Pet Shop Bar, with The Components and Yawn Mower, and March 23, Stosh’s, with Cyclone Static, The Brixton Riot, The 65’s, SHRB, and LKFFCT …

STREAM Spider Rockets

Hazlet-based hard rockers Spider Rockets will play Feb. 3 at the Brighton Bar behind their fifth LP, Along Came Spider on P-Dog Records. Produced by Dan Malsch (Framing Hanley, Tantric, and Doro), the release follows Bitten, which was named a 2012 Top 10 album by MetalOdyssey.com and led Spider Rockets to triumph over heavy hitters like Five Finger Death Punch, Pennywise and others in radio cage matches. Speaking of which, WWE darling Charlotte Flair’s walk-out song was Spider Rockets’ “Going Down” in her 2014 season …  

Arts Council of Princeton presents the SweetART Market, a Valentine-themed sale of original work by local artists. Attendees can expect unique jewelry, ceramics, glassware, textiles, sweet treats and other forms of fine art and craft for gift-giving. The two-day market is Feb. 9 and 10 at Council’s pop-up studio next to Metropolis Spa and Salon in Princeton Shopping Center, 301 N. Harrison St. Arts Council of Princeton is a nonprofit organization founded in 1967 and housed in the landmark Paul Robeson Center for the Arts …

“Inheritance of the Saints” is an exhibit by artistic concert photographer Douglass Dresher that will be displayed Feb. 3 at Branded & Bold Ink tattoo parlor in Asbury Park. What’s great about Dresher is that he not only gets stunning shots of artists, but also stirring images of their audiences.

 

Bob Makin is the reporter for www.MyCentralJersey.com/entertainment and a former managing editor of The Aquarian Weekly, which launched this column in 1988. Contact him at makinwaves64@yahoo.com. Like Makin Waves at www.facebook.com/makinwavescolumn

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