Singer Soldier - Gilbert Neal - The Hentchmen - Livingmore

Singer Soldier - Bones To Ashes.

Background - Inspired by organic instrumentation, Singer Soldier is an alternative country band from Metro Detroit that is founded by Nick Marko on vocals/guitar and Darrell Bazian mandolin/guitar. 

Influenced by Mazzy Star and Johnny Cash, Singer Soldier takes eclectic instruments like bassoon, cello, violin, synth, glockenspiel, banjo and guitars creating a folk, classical sound. The albums ambient interludes craft an absorbing texture to the songs and fluidity to the records.

Nick Marko tells us "I was produced by Michael Ivins of The Flaming Lips, released two national records under Sony and Greyday and have recently completed the second album, Illusions Of Stability, under my solo project called Singer Soldier. It has elements of alternative rock, alt folk, classical and electronic". Website here, Bandcamp here.

'Bones To Ashes' is the first of six songs on 'Illusions Of Stability'. This is a fabulous collection of songs packed full of variety. The consistent elements are the high quality of musicianship, and the melodic vocals. After that Singer Soldier explore different styles and musical instruments, doing so with attention to detail throughout.


Gilbert Neal - Drop of You.

Background - Gilbert Neal is to release a new single 'Drop of You' from his latest album 'The Mayor of Estes Park'. Gadabout, raconteur, ne’er-do-well-er. Gregarious and fecund. An artist who has said his dream is to be the American Susan Boyle with an album title (Dirty Red Pagan) suggested by Andy Partridge of XTC. Gilbert Neal is a multi-instrumentalist and songwriter with a uniquely imaginative multi-genre style that’s refreshingly difficult to categorize. In addition to his contributions as an indie rock solo artist, his adventurous, exploratory spirit has even found him performing in a Genesis tribute and a country music line-dance band.

Born in Buffalo, NY and currently based in North Carolina, Gilbert Neal has performed in various bands, jazz ensembles and theater productions throughout the years. However, at the heart of it, Gilbert is first and foremost a songwriter, with most of his lyrics being quite personal, telling a specific story or referring to a particular incident. Thematically, Gilbert is inspired by religion, politics, sex, loss and parental love. His sometimes quirky songs can be tongue-in-cheek, theatrical and somewhat socialist, frequently weaving in sexual, and godless messages in the lyrics. Gilbert says he strives to make each album 1) a cohesive piece of work and 2) guaranteed to possibly make a fantastic musical!

Gilbert has been inspired by an eclectic mix of musicians ranging from XTC and Stevie Wonder to Steely Dan, Radiohead and the Les Humphries Singers. His current band features Gilbert on vocals, piano, guitar and bass, Steve Camilleri on drums, Darrelll Nutt on percussion, Marko Marisic on additional guitar, and Pamela Henderson on backing vocals.

His fifth album, 'Mayor of Estes Park' was released in Summer 2016. His previous four albums include 'Drink The Beast With Me' (2006), 'Our Deepest Apathy…' (2008), 'Vultures and Diamonds' (2010) and 'Dirty Red Pagan' (2013). Website here, Facebook here.

Fifteen tracks make up 'The Mayor of Estes Park' from which 'Drop of You' is now a single release. It also makes a very good introduction to last years album, if it passed you by, like it did me. Anyhow having now played catch up, I'm glad I have, Gilbert Neal is one imaginative and creative person, his musical back catalogue will take a little longer to work through!


The Hentchmen - Worry Converter.

Background - This week Dirty Water Records goes back in time to spotlight our catalogue on notorious Detroit rockers, The Hentchmen. Their origin dates back to October 1992, when founding members John and Tim, bored with commercial radio, set out to play stripped down, primitive Rock 'n' Roll. 

Using the same blunt and essential instruments (organ, guitar and minimal drum kit) as their Sixties Garage Punk heroes, the boys rebirthed a savage "hit and run" sound that would soon prove to drive the young at heart into a feeding frenzy of countless brood to drive 'Detroit Rock City' all over the music map again.

The Hentchmen were one of the most popular live acts in lower Michigan throughout the '90s. Featuring organist/vocalist John Szymanski, Guitarist Tim Purrier, and drummer Chris Handyside. The band played its first proper show at Paycheck’s Lounge more than two decades ago (Feb. 20, 1993, to be precise) They began performing around Ann Arbor and Detroit, gaining a small but rabid fanbase. They released their eponymous debut and produced several indie singles, eventually scoring a contract with Norton Records in New York City.  

"The Hentch" began touring nationally, keeping their home base in Michigan while seeing the rest of the country. They released another album before Handyside was gone, replaced by drummer Mike Audi. With Audi on board they recorded Broad Appeal and Motorvatin', both popular local hits that never quite branched out into larger exposure. 

Still, one didn't need to pity the Hentchmen. They'd been at it for almost a decade, and had toured ten times more than your average garage rock slickers. In other words, those in the know already knew. In 2003, Norton issued the Three Times Infinity LP to critical and local acclaim; a year later, the band debuted on the Times Beach imprint with Form Follows Function. Italy released Hentch.Forth.Five, a collection of early works, in 2007. The band sometimes featured Jack White onstage and on record prior to him forming the White Stripes. 

The Hentch-Forth album and Some Other Guy single released in 1998 on Italy Records are now much sought after by collectors. In 2010, Dirty Water Records released a collection of rare singles as a series (forming a jigsaw puzzle that is the album's cover art) onto a composite LP. You can get your filthy mitts on them right here. Website here.

That's a young looking Jack White above, a part time contributor to The Henchmen. 'Worry Converter' might not be new, it is however a blast of totally natural rock'n'roll, and as Dirty Water Records are in the mood to remind us of them, why should I even consider arguing..


Livingmore - Cocoon.

Background - Los Angeles duo, Livingmore are ready to emerge from their cocoon with their debut record, Ok To Land. Taking cues from acts like Rilo Kiley, Mitski and Jenny Lewis, and adding their own eccentric and optimistic touch, the indie two-piece have channeled the ultimate feel good album, Ok To Land, just in time for summer.

The band, comprised of songwriters Alex Moore and Spencer Livingston, who met in Los Angeles in 2014, have already begun to generate buzz from the HypeM blogosphere with the release of their self-titled EP in 2015. Drawing inspiration across several genres and from acts such as Garbage and The Kinks to Belle and Sebastian, Moore and Livingston write dreamy, optimistic songs that sound like, in their own words - “a mixture of Blondie and The Everly Brothers.”

From the childlike essence of trying to decide what to do when you grow up in ‘Cocoon,’ to the upbeat and straightforward ‘Never Slow Down,’ to the slow and dreamy ‘Transition,’ Livingmore’s first full length record is a lush collection of indie pop tracks with an underlying theme of optimism.

Their first single from their new record, “Cocoon,” is slow-burning, guitar heavy track, with flourishes of western-tinged riffs layers over Moore’s crooning melodies. On the inspiration behind the track, Moore notes: “You realize growing up isn’t just like, you’re a kid and then you’re an adult. There’s all these things in the middle, and it’s easy to get stuck in a phase in your life where you feel cocooned, in a way.”

The record’s anthemic title track, ‘Really Mean It’ is accompanied by an animated stop motion video created by Moore’s brother, Dillon. “We really just wanted to make a video that was totally organic and back to basics but at the same time unique and fresh. That’s kind of what this band is really about when you get down to it,” he explains.

“We never really plan when we’re going to write, we just wait for it to happen,” Livingston notes, while explaining the band’s songwriting process. Each song has a totally organic approach - sometimes born from Livingston playing a melody and Moore composing accompanying lyrics on the spot; other times with both of them writing songs separately and meeting in the middle.

“We can be reborn in all kinds of different ways, where now we feel like butterflies again. We’ve regained confidence in ourselves and are ready to move to the next chapter, whatever that may be,” Moore explains defiantly. Livingmore are certainly ready to emerge from their own cocoon - look out for Ok To Land, coming this summer. Website here, Facebook here.

'Cocoon' is a bright and breezy indie song, where melodic vocals and subtle harmonies are accompanied by a refined musical arrangement. It's very catchy and at just over two minutes long, is also a tease and a half for the debut record.