DIXIE WITCH
One Bird, Two Stones
Small Stone Records

The eagerly anticipated second release by Denton, TX rednecks Dixie Witch finds the boys still hammering out power grooves of the finest order. With a raw production, barely containing the trio’s infectious thunder, “One Bird, Two Stones” lays down a lethal doze of squashing riffs and doom heavy bass. Only the drums lose out under the density of the recording coming off a little brash.

Filed under Stoner Rock in most circles, the Witch add color in the red, white and blue of the their rebel Southern Rock sound. “The Wheel” brings it all into focus with a splash of acoustic guitar introducing drummer/vocalist Trinidad’s whiskey-soaked rasp. Like labelmates Five Horse Johnson, the band take elements of Monster Magnet, Black Sabbath and Lynyrd Skynyrd - toss it in a blender and swallow it whole.

Though Clayton keeps songs like “Traveler,” “Goin’ South,” and “More Of A Woman” embraced in his metallic death riff, CC comes into his own on “Turbo Wig.” In Allman Brothers fashion, HJ gets his own dedication in the mellow dirge of “Here Today Gone Tomorrow” an emotional gem about saying goodbye soaked in deep loss and bleeding pain. The disc is wrapped in the phenomenal art of Mike Saputo giving the whole package a magnificent look.

Website:
Small Stone Records.

MACHINE HEAD
Hellalive
Roadrunner Records

Sorry folks, I’m going to be biased here. I’ve toured with these guys, hung out with them, tolerated the line up changes and still dig every record they put out. To have a live CD crammed with 14 supercharged classics is a dream come true. The only thing that would have made it better is if they’d opted for a 2CD set. The band handle the production themselves with Colin Richardson (Bolt Thrower, Fear Factor, Overkill) on the mixing board. The whole disc is taken from the December 8, 2001 show at Brixton Acadamy, London (hence the Coat-Of-Arms on the cover) except for “None But My Own” and “The Burning Red” which were from Lepzig, Germany on the same tour.

“Hellalive” does a tremendous job pulling from all four of the band’s studio works keeping the intensity up and the drive at full force. “Bulldozer” gets the party started with “Ten Ton Hammer,” “Old” and “Take My Scars” fusing metal to bone. Converging guitars with a devastating rhythm section has always been MH’s tour de force, therefore the impact of their full on charge is all the more evident when you sew one bonecrusher with another. Slightly annoying is vocalist Robert Flynn’s introduction of each song, but his wrap before “Crashing Around You” is quite fitting.

If you bought the “Year Of The Dragon” import, this one goes one step better with the inclusion of four tracks from “Supercharger” which thicken up the set and make for a richer texture over all. Some in the rock press were none to kind to Supercharger, yet in this context the band flex a bit more muscle and the songs fit nicely. Now if they could just hold on to a guitar player.

Website:
Roadrunner Records or Machine Head

MICHAEL BURKS
I Smell Smoke
Alligator Records

For 55-year old Wisconsin native Michael Burks, “I Smell Smoke” puts the working class hero firmly on the blues-rock map. His third studio release, second with Alligator is an amalgamation of electric wail and full-volume soul-blues. After years of playing in clubs from Milwaukee to Arkansas, the well-schooled bluesman puts a heavy dose of metal into his power-chords giving him a distinctive sound and a powerhouse presence. A mechanical technician by trade, Burks left his fulltime day job with Lockheed Martin three years ago to pursue his love of the blues.

“I Smell Smoke” reflects that love in the passionate “All Your Affection Is Gone,” “Hard Love,” and “Good Man, Bad Thing.” His solos on those tracks alone are worth the cost of the CD. Burks wrenches, twists and distorts each note while keeping the whole thing fully cranked. Even with the acoustic backdrop on “Snake Eggs” the guitar’s distortion rides the song with the gusto of a bareback prizewinner. When Burke does slow down on “Time I Came In Cut Of The Rain” and the organ-fed “Lie To Me” his soulful voice carries the song through wistful emotion and pushes the melody for a heartfelt homerun. But it’s “Willing To Crawl” and “Miss Mercy” that move Burks into the stratosphere - strong, bold and cleaver.

Website:
Alligator Records or Michael Burks

FREE VERSE
Inventing An Archetype (6-track EP)
Agitprop!/DemiRep Records

Six lathered up art-pop meet metal crunch tunes from this Lawrence, Kansas group may just do the trick for Free Verse. An all female trio (named after the genre of poetry which is composed without rules of meter) attack their craft with unbridled chaotic energy – sometimes working …sometimes not. Having relocated to Seattle in 1998, M (drums), Lisa (bass) and Jenni (guitar), re-write elements of Goth, Metal and Punk to form their own distinctive sound. In their first song alone, “Surface,” they teardown and rebuild the song a number of times with fist-clenched fury.

Lyrics stained with hardcore brutality and delivered in voices ranging from melodic to gut-wrenching change the flow of “End Of Choice” and harness the power of “Blame.” However, it is in the wide-open riff of “Invisible Tomorrow” that the band comes together and proves Free Verse can work. A driving, power-chord rocker, the song lines up just enough of the right elements to stand up loud and proud. Another favorite is the knockout “Speed Driving.” Starting with a hypnotic drum patter, the song is immediately swept away in the chug of guitar pasted over the lyrics “Can’t justify the daily bullshit/You fight but what is ever won…a waste of time caring about those who don’t care back.”

Closing out the EP, “Sinking Into The Shadows” rips apart in a contorted melee actually doing the song a disservice. The verse section lacks punch, yet the midsection holds up saving it from dropping over the edge. A sure foundation and enough gusto might see it through.

Website:
Agitprop! Records

DIE TRYING
Self Titled
Island Records

The pact, "We're gonna die trying" is not only the basis for the name of this Sacramento four-piece but also an expression of their philosophy on making it in this big, bad world. Put together by tattoo artist/vocalist, Jassen, guitarist Jack, drummer Matt and bassist Steve, Die Trying decided early on that they were going to do whatever it took to bring their rock to the kids. Under a rigorous schedule between rehearsal, writing and gigging, the gang eventual landed a deal with Island after an opening slot with Papa Roach (who actually lend the band’s singer Jacoby Shaddix for “Conquer The World”).

All the big names were flown in and construction of the band’s debut was pieced together with producer Neal Avron (Everclear, New Found Glory) and chief mixer Jay Baumgardner (Hoobastank, Papa Roach). Sonically the disc is clean and distinctive. Their songs are not about social reform, political agendas or gang warfare - they are about relationships and rock. Their straightforward delivery rings pure without the need to dip into current trends. “Runaway” has one those classic lines that keep you hitting the repeat button as does “Dirty Dirty” and thumping “Never Good Enough.” “Turn Up The Radio” is the lead single – and like the song “Die Trying” has catchy pop melodies with hook-laden guitar over a mesmerizing backbeat. The lyrics remain mature and thoughtful especially on the love song “Oxygen’s Gone,” a real plus for such a young band.

Website:
Island Records

DAVID LEE ROTH
Diamond Dave
Magna Carta Records

Truth is, this is not as bad as the reviews. Diamond Dave our ex-Van Halen hero of years long gone has decided to visit his old record collection and take us along for the ride. Featuring odd R&B/Blues covers, Roth returns to his roots trying to find a place for his descending gravel yelp. A wise choice was kicking the record off with Savoy Brown’s “You Got The Blues, Not Me…” The laidback riff moves into a groovy ass-shaker with lyrics that suggest they were written just for Roth’s current state, “Well I’m tired of being a fool/and my mind goes from hot to cool/and trying to conform to others ideas/and somebody else’s rules…I’m tired of being someone I know ain’t me.”

In fact, the Savoy Brown tunes “Made Up My Mind” and “Stay While The Night Is Young” with their boogie beat and blues ambiance rise as the better of the selections. That’s not to be said for others. The Doors “Soul Kitchen” and Hendrix’s “If 6 Was 9” lack impact and eventually fall flat. “Medicine Man,” made to sound like an old Robert Johnson recording, gives hope of something unique and great but doesn’t finish up with any kind of bang. Others, like “That Beatles Tune” and “Act One” are a disaster. And why would Dave want to re-record “Ice Cream Man.” The 2003 version lacks all the gusto of the 1978 original that Dave inspired. Very unkind.

The problem here is a lack of consistency throughout the whole record and I think that’s what fans are finding frustrating. His original “Thug Pop” is actually quite good as is the Big Band flare in “Bad Habits” but the whole thing comes across like a demo – not quite finished. The man is caught somewhere between Vaudeville (which is really were Roth’s true talent lies) and Rock Icon. He can’t seem to find his place as he approaches 50 years old and even with the help of good songs and guest’s like Edgar Winter, Nile Rodgers and Gregg Bissonette he still can’t get his feet off the ground. But we want him to, we really do.

Website:
Magna Carta Records or David Lee Roth

RANDY TRI
Tinh Ca Rock Buon
Independent

One of the better one-man metal bands out there, Randy fuses metal riffing with speed, dexterity and passion. A dedicated student of Yngwie Malmsteen, Joe Satriani, Steve Vai and Vinnie Moore the Vietnamese-born virtuoso started playing guitar at age eight. By 18 he was in an American/Vietnamese band which he soon out grew and later joined a straight on American metal band. As he’s grown more confident in his playing his song writing has matured to include influences from Uli Jon Roth and Michael Schenker to Jimi Hendrix.

With “Tinh Ca Rock Buon”, a compilation of soft rock love songs, Randy sings and writes lyrics in his native tongue with a hot bed of molten riffs just under the surface. Appling the acoustic guitar as a melodic intro to “Nhip Dieu Tinh Yeu,” “Thu Xa Vang” and “Nuoi Tiec Tinh Dau” he adds a presence that creates a dynamic sledgehammer effect when the electric chops drop in. It is that balance between his George Lynch Kamikaze signature guitars and his Ovation collection that magnify his rich tones.

Caught between Americanized Hard Rock and nuances of his native culture, many of the record’s tracks fuse together a unique, almost mystical edge. With most of his songs about the obstacles of love and life, the delicate “Ve Dau,” the keyboard-laced “Loi Hat Con Tim” and infectious “Ngay Xua Ao Trang” typify Tri’s originality, composition and song structure. The ballads “Hay Quen Di” and “Chieu Thu Phuong Xa” showcase the guitarist emotional side not only in his playing but his voice as well. Yet, its when Tri lines up a wall of layered sound complete with reverb and loads of compression that songs like “Nuoc Mat Tinh Doi” and the instrumental “The Big Bang” bring out his best.

Constructed in his home studio, the record benefits from a 24 multitrack digital/analog recording. When asked about his creative isolation, Tri states “I realized I am against odds being a rocker in a Vietnamese culture that has never been fond of rock music. I don't really care. I'm in this for the love of what I am doing. I hope to add the style of rock into Vietnamese music.” For more about Randy visit his website below.

Website:
Rock Alone

BLACK LAMB
The Low Road
Independent

Hailing from dry, hot, Denver, Colorado comes the thunder that is Black Lamb. With a bit of Cult meets AC/DC tossed in with the denseness of Black Sabbath and Blue Cheers, these five mountain men screen guitars, bass and drums in the prospectors search for hook-embracing, gold-filled sludge. With only five songs on their debut effort, BL slam down memorable riffs, gargantuan balls and full-throttle intensity to claim their rightful take in the true spirit of rock.

“Today” kicks the record off with a taste for southern fried swamp chug. Six minutes of head-pounding fever, lots of wah wah and no rest for the wicked sets the pace nicely. However it is the wide-open riff of “Widowmaker” that actually sets the EP’s standard. A fierce number resting on the backbone of a loud Gibson guitar etches out what these boys are all about. Even the Pearl Jam moment in the break adds beauty to the songs structure. “Walk With Me” goes straight back to the late ‘60s. A track laced with danger, Morrison-like lyrics and truckloads of feedback all serenaded by a lethal E-chord. “Fools Gold” follows suite.

The gentle intro to “Born and Razed” bates the hook to a torturous metal crunch that jump from the speaker like a wild-eyed rattlesnake. Its bite is venomous and shots through your veins with power-cord fury. A band to watch, these guys are a straight ahead muscle-rock machine. To borrow a quote from their press release “What the world needs is rock and roll…Black Lamb is gonna make damn sure it chokes on it.”

Website:
Black Lamb

HELL N’ DIESEL
Tear For The Wicked
Shuffle Records

Three tracks of dirty, grinding, contagious heavy rock from five Swedes dedicated to spreading twin guitar harmonies in a single power-jolt. Emil (vocals), Sundh (bass), Carlsson (guitar), Joelsson (guitars) and Anders (drums) follow the success of their EP “Asphalt Supreme” in like fashion with thick, full-scale grandeur. “Tears For The Wicked” rides in with both cylinders filled with sonic riffs that meet a combusting rhythm section in an exquisite anthem. Perfectly crafted for high-octane whiplash, the 3:45-minute ditty is just the beginning.

“Rebel” rolls in the barroom boogie piano which soaks up some of the left over guitar shred in the chorus giving the song a revved-up mid-section. A near classic, this track is worth the hunt. An absolute monster! Third track, “Speed Devil,” lays right in there with the best of The Four Horsemen meets Little Caesar meets Zodiac Mindwarp. Biker rock that takes you from 0 to 60 in five seconds. Hell n’ Diesel put it all together with fine-tuned brilliance, big guitars and hooks big enough to catch Minnesota Sturgeon. They may be imitations but there are few who do it better. Give these guys some food on their table and enough cash to come over and play the USA - buy this at Stonerrock.com today!

Website:
Shuffle Records or Hell N’ Diesel

AMERICAN FULL CIRCLE
Self Titled
Independent

Constructed in Diecaster Studio under the watchful eye of singer/guitar maestro Janusz Bartolik, American Full Circle is as much a tribute to ‘70s rock as it is a power trio. Formed by Bartoik (a behavioral technician by day in Erie, PA) along with partners-in-crime drummer George “Gooch” Gnage Jr. and bassist Jimi Szczesny, the three play good, honest hard rock waving a banner reminiscent of Bad Company, Steppenwolf and Ten Years After. Upfront is Bartolik’s fat guitar tone, rich, brooding and swollen with blues licks.

A native of Poland, Bartoiks baritone is peppered with a unique accent that makes songs like the oozing “Love Or Lust,” the blistering “Bad Penny Boogie” and the Hendrix-centered “Seeing Is Believing” tastefully foreign. His accent actually gives the songs presences and in “Can You Read My Mind” rings of alienation when he sings “I’m sick of living in this town/It’s burning up my mind.” Elsewhere his keyboard talents lend atmosphere to the lush-drive of “Happy” and “Let Me Show You.”

Production on AFC is surprisingly warm and fresh. Both drums and bass are properly centered and the minimal layering keeps each track vibrant. However, not every song reaches its mark. “Hope Is Good For The Soul” wanes a bit but does boast a tasty solo. Better is when the songs cook under a blues spotlight and grow thick and fuzzy. The outstanding “Childhood River” and “What Love Means For You” lock into a groove and ride out on a leather-covered riff. The biographical burn of “Make Me A Star” and the country-fied “Wrong Side Of Town” have become reoccurring favorites.

To order American Full Circle call
(814) 454-4116 or check out their website at: www.americanfullcircle.com

THE DRAGSTRIP SYNDICATE
The Action EP
Independent

Having played with the likes of Nashville Pussy, Rocket From The Crypt and Molly Hatchet, this Richmond, VA quintet laid a heavy dose of rock and roll reality to all that come by their way. With a three guitar front assault and the Southern tang of Humble Pie these boys mean business. But the main ingredient here is soul. That’s right, straight off the boat we hear a steady appetite of spoon-fed Wilson Picket shakin’ in yer boots James Brown. Let the needle bounce right onto third track “Long Time Waiting” and hear the danger of sweat and swagger.

But before we get there lets go to “Action” at the top of the record and see why The DS are being compared to The Stones and The Faces. Yep, sure enough – a wide open power-riff rolling into a steady backbeat with a tambourine raining down after the second chorus. Vintage “Let It Bleed” stuff here. The vocals defiantly hail back to The Black Crowes Chris Robinson who’s vocals were straight out of the Rod Stewart bible. Tasty solos ride this right through to the end. Perfect for the pulverizing churn of “Walk Tall” – a track stolen from the Stooges school of songwriting.

“Long Time Waiting” we covered already – but you need to hear it one more time to watch the hairs rise up on your forearm. “American” jumps in with a power-kick patter complete with soul-shaking foot stomping. A steady diet of blues-rock fuses the driving thump of both bass and drum to the wall-to-wall guitar wail. “Bricklayer” shuts this party down way to early. Cowbell in hand the song takes on a life of its own, breathing fire and feeding raw adrenaline into a garage rock frenzy. Best damn record this week!

Website:
Drag Strip Syndicate

FIRESTONE
Stonebeliever
Independent

Take a deep breath and step on the gas. That first jolt is the whiplash of “Nigel Mansel” the first cut on “Stonebeliever.” Powered by a giant wooly riff and dark organ swells, the songs racecar imagery makes for a nice slab of ready-to-grill Stoner rock. Devoid of repetition, the Swedish five-piece move past their “Mexicon” EP debut and take a stance with feet firmly planted on a solid fuzzed out sound. Singer Matte’s Jim Morrison-like vocals support the band’s vision of merging a late‘60s vibe over a Sabbath meter.

Second track in, “Stonebeliever” rocks like a mother. Its frantic pounding and smoldering guitar makes it the EP highlight. Check out the video for this one on the bands website below. Images speak louder than words. “Kaleidoscope Eyes” ushers in more acoustic moments enriching the songs texture making for an interesting trip especially in its final moments.

“Experience ‘79” finds its vibe early on drinking from the influences that made this band interesting from the start. A plodding groove that allows “Morrison” Matte to mold the song to his liking. His voice is strongest here enjoying the push and pull of the songs wide space. Even the songs structure reaches out finding unusual turns to pursue with fascinating results. Worth finding.

Website:
Firestone