~ Balkun Brothers ~ ReDrova (2014) ~ Full-Length Album Advance Preview

Balkun - Front Cover

The Balkun Brothers are hitting their stride. Steve’s singing, low and snarly, goes from relaxed to intense as is right, and his hard-rocking blues guitar goes well beyond the call of mere duty. Brother Nick’s drumming is precise and nimble, even as he whacks ‘em hard, and bassist Caleb Battersby is the perfect accompanist for the pair. Like Boston’s Haley Jane and the Primates, the Balkun Brothers (from Hartford) have just completed their first full-length album after a trio of EP releases that gave notice of their strengths and abilities while creating a craving for more. The new CD fulfills the promise and delivers the goods.

These guys sound like a bunch of kids who always had the clear intention and full knowledge that they would someday be blues-men, while growing up listening to their parents’ Black Sabbath albums. If that might seem to suggest a certain kinship with such as Led Zeppelin, one has only to pop (or click) that band’s BBC recordings into the player to get the gist. This music is unmistakably in the blues tradition, but the hard-rocker looking to get his rocks off without any complications will come away satisfied. It all has a raw quality, even as its studio polish furthers, rather than detracts from, the effect.

Balkun - Back Cover

A pair of rough-and-tumble numbers starts the 12-track CD off, “Last Jam” blazing in like a proclamation that We Are Here and the title track, “ReDrova,” affirming the announcement with similar energy but starting with a one-minute dose of 60’s -style “psych” guitar before blasting back to bad-ass. A whole lotta lovely instrumental interlude interposes in the middle of the six-minute track, with multiple guitars layered but not overdone, as the Bolero buildup climaxes and carries in the closing section.

If at this point the listener still has any concerns about whether this is really blues music, those apprehensions should be allayed as the rest of the album plays on. Slide guitars return to their blues roots without ever quite losing sight of those kaleidoscopic qualities, acoustical elements creep up so as to draw in, rather than detract from, the listener’s interest. It’s almost like the band’s undeclared intention is to educate and maybe even convert the rock and alternative/grunge listener to the cause of old-school Roots Music.

Balkun - Inside Right

“Search for the Arachnid” finds the band revisiting its “Bluesch Metal” alter-ego as first observed on the “Live at the Baeschment” EP. While it might seem like this Who-infused novelty project (think: “Boris the Spider”) was a first foray into recording, it actually followed “God Bless Our Fallout Shelter,” their initial introductory testament and precursor to the full-length album at hand. Another EP, “We. In. Detroit.” comes between these releases; recorded in one take, this one serves as a testament to the band’s power and prowess live. Also, a further ‘underground’ undertaking of more Bluesch Metal is currently in the works, having been recorded and now being mixed for release after the ReDrova tour and associated activities are completed.

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When the tempo slows, the drive is still compelling- especially with “Sally’s Blues,” which clearly answers the call for a straight-up blues number, even as it sets the listener up for the rest of the album. A couple of highly entertaining, low-down, back-porch-on the-bayou quickies carry the mood toward the fitting ‘goin’ home’ conclusion of “Too Damn Long.” In the between-times, the songs run through a range of alt-edged rags and funkified shuffles, all seemingly aimed at appealing to a wide array of mainstream listeners without compromising the quality of the time-honored tradition in which the material resides.

In other words, the Balkun Brothers accomplish the admirable objective of staying true to their roots and respectful of institutions while moving the music forward and contributing to the ongoing art-form by adding to an existing body of work with individual flair.

Balkun - Inside Left

Along the way, the listener is treated to a whole lot of tasty and skillfully executed music, much of it played on custom instruments, as Steve Balkun is a luthier of no small ability; a look at the stage when this band plays is like a walk through a museum of contemporary craft. These implements look great, and they seem to play pretty well, too! The same is abundantly true of the entire band- they all work seamlessly together, whether they’re ripping through a stripped-down set of power-trio “thrash blues” or taking the time to add in a variety of guitars and even the occasional baritone horn, courtesy of bass-man Caleb Battersby. One might suppose that Nick Balkun adds a smattering of percussive embellishments to the mix, but it is worth noting that his energy and attention are also devoted to recording and engineering the tracks for the project. Subsequent mixing and ‘mastering are taken elsewhere, but the initial “documentation’ is done by the drummer at the band’s own Balkun Studios. A few friends add vocals and some keys and harp along the way, but never so much as to detract from the fact that this is the music of the Balkun Brothers, pure and simple- and entertaining, effective and engaging as well.

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ReDrova

Balkun Brothers

(2014)

Steve Balkun     Guitar/Vocals

Caleb Battersby     Bass/Baritone

Nick Balkun     Drums/Percussion

Featured Artists:

Larry ‘Buzzy’ Fallstrom – Keys/Organ

Dave Sadlowski – Acoustic Guitar/ Harmonica

DJ M.E. – Vocals

Shmem & Rancor – Vocals / Foot Stomping

Kevin Eagan – Car Engine / Foot Stomping

Brandy Dog & Vinny Gangi – Vocals / Inspiration

All Songs Written and Produced by Balkun Brothers

Engineered and Recorded by Nick Balkun at Balkun Studios

Mixed and Mastered by Jason ‘Jocko’ Randall

at More Sound Studios in Syracuse NY

Special thanks to family and friends /

Alan Venitosh and Telefunken-Elektroakustik

PARTICLE Electric Haze, Worcester 11nov14

141112            –           PARTICLE                  –           Electric Haze, Worcester

Particle ElecHaze

Particle might just be the rockin’ -est jam band I’ve heard yet. In fact, I need someone to tell me what the standards are for a “jam band,” cuz I’m pretty sure this one qualifies, but it’s different/ If Dopapod was a heavier band, or if bands like Twiddle had fewer vocal tracks and a more straight-on, hard-driving rock thing going on, they might approach what Particle is doing. In the eternal quest to qualify and label everything, I’m thinking: solid-rock jazz-fusion. Primarily rock, but definitely fusion, and all up-tempo, driving rhythms to keep it entirely danceable. It’s plenty nimble, but not what you’d call light.

 They just launched into their first cover, Pink Floyd’s “Have a Cigar.” It’s a fairly monstrous take on the original beast, plodding with vengeance and taking the song a little further down the path of ponderous melancholy. All their music has a definite funk-bottom to it; one might not have thought of that with the Floyd before, but it works!
Particle DrumsA quick take on the Theme from Beverly Hills Cop gets a similar treatment, thrown in just for fun, before the guys offer a few words of thanks and venture into down-tempo territory with a slinky, soulful number, then back up with a raucous, balls-out rocker with vocals. As the second half rolls along, the music ventures a little further into prog territory. The interplay between musicians ratchets up, with virtuoso guitar and keyboards. Ben Combe, the guitarist, has the look of an ‘Artiste,’ and the keyboard player, Steve Molitz, looks like a Real Musician. Both of these guys have hair, dark hair, lots of it, on their heads and faces. The rhythm section not so much. They look a couple of regular fellas, both with light hair, not much of it, and baseball caps. It’s like two different bands joining up. Clay Parnell, on bass, looks like just a plain ol’ skinny white guy, but he lays it down good with the drummer, Brandon Draper. Brandon is amazingly fast- he plays with a fairly straightforward rock style, but so quick it’s breathtaking, like Neal Peart.

Steve has been at the center of the Particle universe for a decade-and-a-half, with Ben joining him some ten years ago. After the usual ups and downs of any band, Brandon and Clay came along about a year ago. They have a new CD out, and they seem to have solidified their sound. The band I’m seeing here tonight is polished and tight; I was surprised to learn that they’ve been “in development” so recently. Their hard work is clearly paying off! The lights are right on, too- in fact, lighting director Will Simon is listed on the band’s webpage like a fifth band member.

BenCombeSpeaking of different bands and joining up… Ben moonlights with Pink Talking Fish. What’s this now? A band that does ONLY Pink Floyd, Talking Heads, and Phish songs? I saw them at Disc Jam last summer, and I enjoyed them for sure- nice, clean sounds all the way around, from that band and surely from this one as well. And Ben was the dude I met at a Hayley Jane and the Primates show; he guested on guitar. Ran into him a couple of weeks later at a Twiddle set here at Electric Haze, got to chatting, and his band Particle sounded interesting. They are! It’s a rich blend of music, filling in a unique niche in the highly instrumental jam scene by being quite possibly the hardest rocking

CrowdOut

Tomorrow night is the last show of their Fall Tour, going down at the Brooklyn Bowl. Among other guests and heroes, none other than Phil Lesh is expected to show up and jam with his friends, a little payback for all the times Steve has joined him. Life is good!