After 18 years as the lead vocalist/rhythm guitarist for the 2NZ Band, Debbie Shoaf has created a solo debut that suggests she's poised for the heightened recognition to which her album title alludes. Breakthrough, recorded live during a Kansas City Songwriting Circle showcase performance, captures the confident power of Shoaf's rich, tender voice. The album also acquaints listeners with Shoaf's storytelling, as she offers thoughtful preludes to several of her songs. The record's last two tracks provide the strongest testament to her range, as she moves from "You Always Will," an inspiring, empathetic ode to anyone attempting to deal with tragic loss, to "You Are What You Eat," a genuinely humorous reflection on food-related topics. The spotlight remains on Shoaf throughout the album -- "I'm the one telling the story," she says to justify altering the facts of a tale involving acoustic guitar partner Troy Alan -- but Alan's harmonies and delicate guitar interaction add another satisfying dimension to Shoaf's well-crafted songs.
For Your Radio
The Hurricane's forum for acoustic artists, scheduled for Tuesday, November 14, has been saddled with the unlikely title "Acoustic Grudge Match." Is the venue hoping more of its high-volume-rock-loving clientele might attend this intimate event if they're under the mistaken impression that a rumble might break out at any time? A glimpse at headliner Dan Jones' album art suggests "Acoustic Grudge Match" is his own brainchild, as the phrase figures prominently in several doodles. Tuesday night's main event sees this accomplished strummer returning to an area stage for the first time since he headed The Corndog Jamboree alongside future Season to Risk singer and then-bassist Steve Tulipana. Jones now resides in Eugene, Oregon, but For Your Radio exemplifies why local music fans should welcome back this prodigal son with open arms. Name-dropping certain sports stars, hitting the road with a "skanky hardcore band," and threatening to open a keg of whupass, Jones isn't the stereotypical sensitive-guy folk singer. Jones juggles witticisms with truly touching tales of longing and emptiness, setting both to gently rolling country melodies and spare descending scales. If his Acoustic Grudge Matches were actual competitions, Jones wouldn't have much to worry about -- it's difficult to imagine a contender besting For Your Radio.
Cruse has played its share of headlining club gigs. But when Culture Club's reunion tour stopped at the Uptown Theater last month, this spirited dance-music duo took the advice offered by one of its own songs: "What You Seize ... Is What You Get." Playing the opening slot, Regina Cruse stole Boy George's fashion thunder (she wore a stylish, form-fitting outfit; he an unflattering hat), and the group's pulsing rhythms set in motion a crowd that was eagerly awaiting the opportunity to dance. Though the band's live show makes for a more engaging experience, its disc inspires listeners to make their own entertainment as Cruse's voice weaves its way through sultry grooves. At 16 songs, This ensures that people who throw on this potent disc at a party won't have to reload anytime soon, and the quality is impressively consistent.
As Mojo Nixon sang, " Elvis Is Everywhere." Whereas Nixon was referring to alleged sightings of the late resident of Graceland, area alt-rock bands draw influence from the Elvis who made a confirmed appearance in Kansas City last fall. The statute of limitations has passed, meaning punks can forgive Elvis Costello for "Everyday I Write the Book" and concentrate on emulating his edgier early work. Although Bulldog Front takes clear aim at Costello's sound, it comes closer to matching such bands as The Buzzcocks. On "Fashionable Anarchist," the vocalist even sports a slight British accent. The band features former members of Julia Surrendered and the fun-loving ska crew The Bill Wennington Fan Club, which bodes well for its live shows. These seasoned scenesters have also learned how to pen memorable hooks, and Devin Blair's bass lines growl like the group's titular canine.
With a name that's at once a pun and a Star Wars reference, Boba Fettish seems as if it should be contractually obligated to play quirky Weezer-style nerd rock. However, this quartet's sound actually seems to predate the first appearance of Lucas' science-fiction epic, hailing back to a period owned by The Who and The Kinks. Boba Fettish's dense, choppy tunes put a bounty on catchy refrains, with tracks such as "Everytime" sounding more like a recently unearthed classic rock rarity than a modern-day retread. Three of the group's four members handle guitar duties, which might explain the variety of sounds they muster -- sparkling reverb, snarling lead riffs, and oddly tuned eruptions. Favoring short, tight songs over showy special effects, Boba Fettish should have little trouble converting followers of solid no-frills rock to its side of the force.
Welton Founder shares drummer/guitarist/vocalist Mike Schonhoff with Boba Fettish, so it's unsurprising that the groups sound similar. But whereas Boba Fettish's tunes bring to mind punk's platinum-selling predecessors, Welton Founder seems to draw more inspiration from such underground acts as Velvet Underground. Its instrumental segments are lengthier and more experimental, the vocals are more subdued, and the guitar tone is hazier. But all of those comparisons are relative -- these are still accessible three-minute bursts, not sprawling tributes to heroin. Though it might strain Schonhoff's voice, a joint show by Boba Fettish and Welton Founder would offer an enjoyable overview of early-'70s guitar rock.