Special Cuts 2002

I know you may find it difficult to believe but the Extreme Essentials is not the only compilation of local artists. Way back when records ruled the land Rock 104 (R.I.P…. sniff) put out a few such collections of original local rock, but I only mention this as a way to publicly thank Doc West for his decades of devotion to music. Back from my digression… South Bend's Classic Rock WZOW 102.3 has just released Special Cuts 2002, a collection of sixteen original songs by local bands, many of whom are quite familiar to Fort Wayne club aficionados. The entire project was spearheaded by Monastic Chambers who incidentally recorded twelve of the tracks with their usual degree of sonic excellence.

But let's get down to the music, shall we?

The Sulentic Brothers Band opens the disc with "Failed Glory", an energetic song of gritty southern rock. Black Jack Shellac weighs in with "Brand Spankin' New" which showcases their tasty brand of melodic modern rock with pop overtones, solid songwriting, and creative production flourishes. "Great Divide" by The Mooncrickets starts with acoustic guitars, harmonica, and subtle vocal harmonies, kicks into overdrive with big drums and sizzling guitars for a nice instrumental section, and then settles back into the acoustic mode to close. The upbeat and rollicking "Pirates Weigh" from Might As Well's To Whom, Brother album revels in violin and this bands trippy jam-based sound. More blues is forthcoming with "I Don't Drink Whiskey" by Luni Tunes, a song with a good blues guitar solo and some cool wah guitar. Mr. Horse lays down a tight rhythm section in the bouncy "Crushed" which sports a classic rock sound and clean vocals. Showing it's often what you don't play that counts, "Fallen Hero" by Soul Mine is sparse in the verse, allowing them to kick up the guitar with great effect later in this wonderfully catchy rock song. The song which most grabbed my attention on this disc is "Tattletale" by Heebie G.B.s, a song which mixes soulful female vocals, a hard rock rhythm section, black gospel vocal harmonies, and some interesting keyboard textures. Hints of 70s light rock and some energetic funk just under the surface on "Only A Dream" by Gold Room draws the listener to the end of the song where the bass and drum break into a heavier groove that will surely rock your hips. "Don't Tell Me" by Misfit Toys also has a relaxed, acoustic 70s feel but with an arena-rock guitar solo and excellent Crosby-Still & Nash vocal harmonies. Southern rockers Sad Boy Trouble contribute "Inside" from their last studio album, a heavy amalgam of hard rock and blues with some scorching guitar work. "Alien" by Studiotone has a big, radio-friendly rock sound with some modern guitar pop flavorings that should appeal to anyone with functioning ears. The Elwood Splinter Blues Band plays "Bad Habit", a classic blues song with a few twists, twists such as fiery solos by keyboards and saxophone. Warsaw's own Summertime Blues Band brings "Medicated Woman" to the party, a humorous song with an upbeat 50s-influenced blues shuffle and killer harmonica solo. "So High" by Mason's Case exhibits a clean modern rock sound with a peppy tempo and a bit of REM influence. The final track, "Perfect Picture" by Fevertree, is a bit more acoustic with overflowing hand percussion, simple guitar, intoxicating violin, clean vocals, and great songwriting chops.

Available at Borders, Barnes & Noble, and www.wzow.fm.

This review first appeared in WhatzUp, November 2002.