Shoreworld: Shane Cooley’s New EP & Marina And The Diamonds Live Review!

Shane Cooley – The Vagabond EP

In a world full of dog eat dog ladder climbing, Shane Cooley is a bright and positive influence. He’s a down to earth guy that keeps his head screwed on straight while navigating one of the shittiest businesses in the world, and that’s important because in this day and age of Americana and folk overload, its kill or be killed in the Matrix. But then again, Cooley isn’t some college kid that woke up last week and decided to sell his bong and buy a guitar so that he could impress his hipster buddies. He’s been writing songs since he was 13 years old and has applied much study as to what works and what is real in his life and ultimately, his music.

Throughout his multi-year journey Shane has made great strides, scoring highlights such as twice chosen as one of twelve “Futures” for XM Radio as an artist gaining momentum as well as becoming the recipient of the ASCAPlus Award in 2006 and 2007 and many other accolades. But what exactly does all that award stuff mean for a guy who really just loves to write and play music? Probably not a hell of a lot when you consider that during his short time so far, Shane has produced over 13 recordings with seven studio albums. And that attention to his craft is what’s kept him on the Shoreworld radar.

Shane’s latest CD is titled The Vagabond EP and it contains five organic compositions from the mind of this North Carolina native. Shane’s concentrated use of dobros and mandolins instead of standard fare gives this an airy, Woodstock feel. I’ve heard him compared to many artists in the past such as Tom Petty, Bruce Springsteen, Ryan Adams, Neil Young, and James Taylor. And while that is a wide berth, some of them come thru here. Mostly James Taylor and Ryan Adams and thankfully not much Bruce (Us New Jersey folk can only take so much.)

The CD itself is sparse and lacking common trappings. I mean if you can’t do it minimal, then two guitars, bass, drums and pianos will just make shitty music much louder and shittier. Shane’s compositional style is at time’s George Harrison self-conscience and thoughtful, at other times unflinchingly soulful and Neil Young from left field. His voice is not your run of the mill fare with the passion of Ed Kowalczyk (Live) to the sing-song inflections of Dave Matthews.

The disc opens with the mandolin and Dobro spring of “In Good Time,” a Dylanesque vibe that bounces along the tracks like a train to Lake George. A traveler’s lament of love and loneliness mixed with travelin’ man isolation. Lou Castro’s Dobro work is simple but effective and the mando riffage of Marcy Brenner makes me feel like I’m back in Lexington, Kentucky.

“Straight Thru” is restless and urgent in nature, skipping along in pseudo calypso style fueled by percussionist Jack Cooley (Shane’s father) and Ocracoke island natives Marcy Brenner and Lou Castro, two North Carolina musicians that Shane had met years ago when he first got his start at 13. The fact that they all now play together makes sense here. Tight, stylish and dark, I can see the solitary Pamlico Sound from the recording studio windows from here.

“Sick Sense Of Humor” is a strange downbeat tune filled with turn around retort and steadfast denial of love that’s been yanked from your grasp. Hey, we’ve all had that story but it’s always good to be reminded that it’s still out there! Cat and mouse has always existed and Shane brings it out in his own desolate way.

“Moonlit Words” is a half-time shuffle and the only song with a bona fide beat. Probably my favorite song on the disc, “Moonlit Words” features smooth and organic harmonies ala Cooley and Brenner as dobros cry plaintively in the back, shooting out for some woody, full-throated resonance before tucking back under the bass and acoustics.

“Vagabond” closes it out with Shane and solo acoustic, moving along thru vagrant, solitary subject matter as Lou Castro thrums the bass on this dark gemmed journey thru the highway to anywhere and possibly everywhere.

Shane is continuing to explore new places and styles, which is admirable. This disc is proof that while he may have won some awards, he doesn’t sit on his laurels and soak up the past glories. Shane will be having his CD release party at The Saint in Asbury Park on September 28 along with special guests.

Marina And the Diamonds @ The Wonderbar

September 5th- LIVE!

This holiday weekend show was part of a plethora of successful gigs around town this weekend. The Paramount Sessions at the Paramount Theater was a smashing success as was the Stone Pony after party with The Sunday Blues. I had been told about this next group earlier in the night and, to be honest, when I first heard the name I didn’t think they would be anything special, but that was not the case. Hailing from that strange and exotic territory called Wales, Marina Lambrini Diamandis has done a solid job carving out a niche for her self and I saw it here tonight.

With style that envelopes musical influences such as Blondie, Patti Smith, PJ Harvey, Britney Spears and Madonna, Marina took the Wonderbar crowd thru a solid set of tunes, nailing her trademarked intimacy between herself and the fans. And I found it amazing that even with the 1,000 plus show going on across the street, the band and promoters managed to fill the club with her faithful, showing that this British bombshell has something big going on.

Think Tori Amos meets Kate Bush with the image of vintage, cheerleader and cartoon and you’re getting the picture, kids. The two keys, bass and drums format was a little odd-looking for this guitar guy but worked well and had the ravenous crowd jumping all over the place. I immediately sensed that even though people had come from as far as New York City to see her, they knew some inside, secret info on this artist. Even if this isn’t you’re kind of thing, you couldn’t help but admire the tight knit sound of band and singer as they shook the entire floor. Going thru tunes from her latest Atlantic/Chop Shop records release, Family Jewels, Marina threw out chart topping hits such as “I Am Not A Robot,” “Hollywood” and “Mowgli’s Road” to the appreciation of her peeps. You could sense the excitement from the fans and feel the buzz in the room.

Marina’s band is top-notch, consisting of Peter Carr, keys, Dan Gulino, bass, Jonathan Shone, keys and Sebastian Sternberg on drums and while she doesn’t consider them to be the Diamonds (she says “The Diamonds” refers to her fans: she explains this on her MySpace page by saying “I’m Marina. You are the diamonds)

Marina and the Diamonds are tough to pigeonhole. Dance, Diva, rock and punk, its all there and she showed me enough snarling attitude and song writing moxy to cross them onto my side of the rock and roll street. Great sound, great vibe and an all around good show from this rising pistol-hot Brit.