Wendy Colonna
"Right Where I Belong"

2006 Independently Released
Score = 8

This CD starts with the track “Easy,” which gets your attention from the get-go. The first part is the odd rhythm supplied by drummer Eldridge Goins. At first I thought it was wrong, or I heard it wrong- but then I backed it up and realized that it was very right. It might catch you off guard, but it grows on you and fits the song perfectly. That’s the hallmark of a great drummer, he lets the song pull the rhythm from him, rather than just forcing a rhythm he already knows into the song. “Easy” is a haunting and peculiar song that grows on you and becomes addictive. And if you’re a singer songwriter like Wendy is, it’s best to just knock the ball out of the park on the first track. That being said, imagine the beautiful Louisiana songstress as she walks the bases- like so many clubs in Austin- to home plate.

The fourth track “Coffee Today” is on par with Carole King’s “So far Away.” It relates to the feelings of loneliness sometimes brought on by a simple event, like stopping by for coffee. It has a rainy Sunday feeling about it, that rare moment on the sofa when the world stops and a bittersweet feeling washes over you, and you realize the day won’t last forever.

“Does it Satisfy” shines with the help of local trumpet hero Ephraim Owens. Wendy shows a great deal of promise as a songwriter and lyricist. She has a knack for riding the line between joy and despair, euphoria and melancholy. As a vocalist she is sultry, passionate and very consistent. Her time spend with close personal friend Guy Forsyth has been a great influence. (Or perhaps, Wendy has been a great influence on Guy?)

The “A” list of Austin talent along for the ride includes Forsyth, Carolyn Wonderland, Warren Hood, Cole el Saleh, Leslie Mccurdy, Su Walenta, Wayne Sutton, and Ephraim Owens. Rounding it out and adding his personal stamp of quality is producer Stephen Doster, who in my opinion can do no wrong.

Guy Forsyth
"Love Songs: For & Against"
2005 Nimble Records
Score = 9

Hallelujah! The new and long awaited album from Guy Forsyth is finally here! It’s been 5 years since he released “Steak,” which was before the 9/11 event that changed everyone’s way of thinking about life and what to be “for and against.” That’s an important thing to keep in mind with this artist, who is all too aware of the world we live in.

Before I get started, let’s do a simple rundown of exactly what we’re dealing with here, incase you just moved to planet Earth. Guy Forsyth is a powerful vocalist who learned how to project his voice by busking on 6th street, and then by fronting the Asylum Street Spankers who were all acoustic and microphone free at the time. He’s a fantastic guitar player, focusing on slide resonator style Delta blues. He also happens to be one of Austin’s premiere blues harp players that could easily share a stage with James Cotton or Kim Wilson. A triple threat? Wait- there’s more! Aside from being a talented vocalist and multi-instrumentalist, he’s a truly inspired songwriter. He’s also one of the few people in Austin to master the musical saw. Add all that together, and you have a rare jewel in Austin’s jewel filled crown.

“Love Songs” starts out strong with “Long Time” which is a hard hitting spoken word rambling blues tune containing such lines as “Everyone wants to pull off the crime of the century- steal 200 gazillion dollars and get away with it. We Americans are freedom loving people and nothing says freedom like getting away with it.” The truth hurts, and Guy knows there’s plenty of pain going around these days. Then my favorite line: “I wonder how the rest of the world sees us, like a drunk 15 year old waving a gun in their faces.” We all hope that’s not true, while knowing it probably is. Powerful thought provoking lyrics that are extremely relevant.

Few even on a national level can compete, and yet for some reason he remains OUR best kept secret. Forsyth comes off as a patriotic American simply venting his frustrations about our recent mistakes more than anything else. After all, when you love something, you expect it to be the best it can be.

As a whole, this CD stands up well against anything he’s ever done. My favorite track of all is called “105.” It rivals my previous favorite Forsyth tune from 1996’s “Needlegun” called “Hometown Boy.” Full of imagery, sweat and tears- and relevant as all get-out.

Guy’s well chosen help includes backing vocals by the immensely talented Carolyn Wonderland, Wendy Colonna, and Pam Miller. Percussion by the gifted New York artist Su Walenta. Recorded and mixed by Mark Addison at his scenic Aerie Studio right here in Atown (Austin Texas), Mark also supplies guitars and keys aside from moral support.

I saw Su Walenta last night at Makor (in NYC) and really enjoyed what she does. I love drums whether they be marching band or ritualistic for celebration or prayer or all the whispers and shouts in between. But the drumming is only one part of her presence on stage. She has an energy that seems very grounding and lifting at once. I spent a good part of my long train ride back home pondering the similarity of spirit present in drummers and ???? I can't pinpoint the next noun .. possibly yoga instructers?? which sounds so silly but all of life seems to me to have been a quest for fulfilling that which makes ones own spirit radiate it's evidence. Accupuncture does that for me, yoga does that for me, but only temporarily. There are those, and I would place Su in this category, who seem to have found some sychronicity in spirit and everyday life and better handle the balance. It seems to me these individuals manifest a spiritual glow for lack of a better description, and always make me wonder if a different path taken would have enabled me to glow like that. Anyway, it was good to listen and watch and feel and be reminded that life in NYC can be more ..... ~Nancy

Bryan Dunn
"Vicious Waltz"
Reviewed on 2/9/09

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Bryan Dunn: Vicious Waltz Vicious Waltz Bryan Dunn: "Vicious Waltz" Song List: Television Song, Ordinary, The Ballad of Emily Rose, Ten Dollar Ring, The Ghost of Abe Lincoln, You, South Dakota, Hollow, Two Shots, Silver Line, Hailey Goodnight The danceable groove of "Television Song" introduces Bryan Dunn’s latest release, Vicious Waltz. The 10-song album constitutes Dunn's best recording to date, with regard to his songwriting, production, and musical maturity. While his lyrics have drawn listeners into his songs since the early '90s, fans could previously count on his themes to frequent autobiographical loves and loves lost (more the latter than former). Vicious Waltz does not sidestep the topic entirely but surrounds it impressively with topics ranging from "Ordinary"’s comment on Top 40 artists' egos to "The Ghost of Abe Lincoln"’s anti-war strains.

With Vicious Waltz, Dunn consciously makes an impressive (and successful) effort to include a large cast of performers he’s worked with since relocating from Austin, Texas to New York City in 2001. Among them, Lara Ewen’s half of “Ten Dollar Ring”'s vocal duet and Jeremy Goldsmith’s lead guitar on “Silver Line” and "The Ghost Of Abe Lincoln" add a delightful variety to the album's instrumental brilliance. Dunn has contemplated bringing piano into his own songs for years, and Misty Boyce does a phenomenal job of incorporating just the right parts into each song she plays.

Boyce's tasteful lilts throughout "Ten Dollar Ring" create a late-night saloon vibe, giving the song a bottom-of-the-glass bluesy confessional feel that help expose the characters' rawest emotions. Then, taking several stylistic sharp turns, her piano amps-up the old-timey swing of "The Ghost Of Abe Lincoln" and then adds a beautiful depth to the travelogue/dedicatorial, "You, South Dakota." Still, similar to the rest of Bryan Dunn's repertoire, Vicious Waltz's greatest strength lies in his keen ability to write poppy, melodically pleasing narratives that hold listeners' attention throughout an entire album.

Dunn crafts carefully worded, succinct phrases to simultaneously paint visual pictures and convey entire spectra of emotions. "There’s a ten dollar ring on your finger / And a five dollar ring in my hand" brings to light two people's romantic incompatibility, their diverged paths in life and differing socioeconomic values. In the same words, we learn about the speaker's disappointment and feelings of material inadequacy. "Ordinary" takes a shot at the egotistical rock star type, "A subtle fraud, a wink and nod, you just want someone to applaud / And when you say 'love' you mean 'penetration.'" In just two lines, Bryan deftly attacks an overblown persona, onstage posing, selfish motivation, and cheap lyrical clichés. While I'm not sure of the song's exact inspiration, I envision Noel Gallagher acknowledging the tribute.

Vicious Waltz reaches its pinnacle in "Hollow." Bryan's vocals and Boyce's piano begin delicately, exploring the powerful emotions involved in an impersonal, physically intimate encounter. "All those pictures in their frames, I will never know those names / 'cause I can't say I didn't want that / I just needed something else." The album comes full circle at "Hollow"'s highpoint—all instruments and a chorus of singers uniting in the lament, "it leaves us hollow." Each of Bryan Dunn's recordings, though truly enjoyed in their entirety by listeners, seems to uncannily produce one unofficial yet crystal clear fan favorite song. His contribution of “Sunshine” to 1993’s eponymous Echo Juliet album is still requested when he returns to his musical hometown of Austin. More recently, “Audio, Stereo, Radio” from 2005's Static and Scripture has garnered him both critical praise and elicits audience sing-a-longs at his gigs.

Perhaps this collection of songs will provoke more introspection as a whole, and not have that song that begs for happily inebriated hoots at live shows. Or, maybe the fan favorite might grow along with Dunn's work. My personal example being that after numerous listens to multiple mixes of the album over the past year, “Hollow” is still the one song that stands above the rest. Yet given its tempo, mood, and a more intense emotional subject matter, I'd feel a bit odd hollerin' for it in a club (but please, Bryan, consider this an advance request for "Hollow" at the next show I can attend).


Musicians performing on Vicious Waltz: Bryan Dunn, acoustic guitars & vocals; Misty Boyce, keyboards & melodica; Jeremy Goldsmith, guitars; Emily Helming, electric bass & vocals; Andy Mac, vocals & piano; Drew McKeon, drums, percussion, & guitars; Jim McNamara, upright bass; Jennie Muoio, vocals; Su Walenta, percussion; John Atzberger, mandolin & banjo; David Cerequas, electric bass, vocals, & harrassment; Elizabeth Dotson-Westphalen, trombone; Lara Ewen, vocals on "Ten Dollar Ring"; David Luther, saxophone; Nick Ogawa, cello; Chorus on "Hollow": Craig Chesler, Jesse Glendon, Mandi LeBlanc, Kelli Rae Powell, Emily Helming, David Cerequas, & Bryan Dunn

Reviewed on 2/9/09