Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Ball & Chain Releases Second Album

Well it was bound to happen. See, the Juke Joint has never had a house band before – we’ve always had a band in here once in a while, but most bands need a lot of room and we just don’t have it. We are definitely what you might call intimate and so we mostly just have the juke box playing all night. We stock it with the very best and you get three plays for a quarter.
Can’t beat it.
Well, all that changed when a new CD was pulled out of the pile on my desk. It’s from a group that’s just a little ways over the mountain and they go by the name Ball & Chain. So, they are the first semi-local band to submit stuff to us AND they just happen to be a two person married to each other group.
Husband Jon Piro may be from the Bronx but he plays authentic Americana music that is honest and vibrant. His wife Lucinda McDermott has got a sultry growl that will drive most men crazy in a good way. They do all their own singing and playing and can ride together in one car.
They’re perfect for the juke joint and now that the first CD, Late For The City, is available at their shows or on their website, they’ll soon get too big to play here all the time so you better drop by and give ‘em a listen now.
Crazy is that song about that girl – you know the one, the one who turns your world inside out and gets under your skin. Jon takes the lead on the vocals and the song has an edge, both in the lyrics and the vocals. The group is showing a lot of promise out of the gate.
All The Time is a Lucinda song and it starts out with a real country vibe but it feels natural coming from her. I’m afraid too many artists try to pass themselves off as country miss the mark by a mile. Here it hits the bulls eye.
Together Won’t Be Heard has Jon taking over the vocals and he gives a performance that’s reminiscent of some early R&B with a little pop music flavor.
Can’t You Feel It starts out with a slow groove; a little organ in the background giving you a churchy feeling. The blend of voices is nice. There’s a nice lead guitar section that holds the song together.
Reckless Heart is a showcase for Lucinda’s vocals. I love her deep notes – they reverberate nicely. Their lyrics are strong – “When you’re chasing the next best thing/You often end up alone.” It’s a song of responsibility and what happens when you have a reckless heart. Out actions reverberate through generations.
Jon takes back the vocals for Waiting For You. It’s a straight forward driving rock style song. While it’s a decent track, it doesn’t catch my fancy as much as the others.
Please Believe It’s True continues with Jon on the vocals. The arrangement is stripped down this time and it hits a little closer to the heart. I might have toned the drums down just a little bit more but their harmony is very strong.
Empty brings Lucinda back to the microphone and once again they’ve stripped down the arrangement and it works very well. When I listen to as she uses her strong vocals, I wonder just how she would sound doing an old-school torch singer song. This is a terrific song and should get a lot of play around here, especially on those “cry-in-you-beer” nights.
Waited Too Long has Jon singing the lead vocals and Lucinda adding harmony. This one has an almost pop sound underneath with the guitar and tambourine combination. Once again they take a serious subject and lighten it up with their lyrics. It’s a good trick and helps us stay with the song. We’ve all had those moments when we’ve waited too long to do something – ask that girl out, change jobs – whatever. We can identify.
 Keep On Walkin’ is a straight blues riff that allows Lucinda to channel her inner Janis and she comes off sounding like a tough woman who is at the end of her rope. When she says you “better keep on walkin’” you know she means it and you better not even look back. This one will get some airplay and a lot of quarters will feature this one in the Juke Joint. This is a killer track.
Maybe It’s Time slows things down and it plays very well as a follow up to the previous song. Great placement guys. I really like this song.
It’s No Lie once again finds the duo flirting with that late ‘60’s pop feel with the arrangement and vocals. That’s not a bad thing – it is radio friendly and when you think about what most of us in my age range grew up listening to, this is the kind of song that permeated our existence.
Things slow down nicely with Fallin’ and features Lucinda’s vocals over simple instrumentation. It builds nicely in intensity. The guitar soars for a short time and then her vocals come back in and grounds the song. The ending of the song beautifully melds the guitar and vocal.
Only Love is a gutsy examination of the power that love holds over us. It may be all wrong, but it’s what makes us who we are. What will we do for love? Good questions, decent song.
And some bonus tracks.
We kick off with Lucinda talking to the guy who is leaving and she doesn’t like how it makes her feel. I think the song is called Battered And Bruised – there’s no information on the CD and she brings this song to life. I can feel the pain this woman has suffered.
The second bonus track references the Beatles, RFK, Martin Luther King, and evokes a ton of memories. I think it’s called The Start Of Something Good and for those of us who have achieved a certain age it will be fun just hear these references. But don’t ignore the harmonies between Jon and Lucinda.
Number three is Jon doing a soulful ballad about the end of love. I’m not sure of the title but it’s one of those songs that makes it certain that despite our time together, it’s over – not in a vindictive way, but that’s just the way it is.
The fourth bonus track is song about endings that didn’t happen. I think it’s called Far Too Late To Try and it’s an interesting take on that stage of relationships.
The last track – that’s 19 if you’re counting – takes us out on a good note. I’ll Be There is about how when things go wrong, there will be one person in your life that you can count on. Thank God, after these songs of pain and endings, I was getting a little worried.
As much as I love this album, I can’t wait to see Ball & Chain live. I can feel their energy on the CD, but nothing beats the adrenaline rush one gets from performing in front of a crowd. There are several songs on this album that are certain crowd pleasers and I hope more people will find the CD. You can get it from their website, www.ballnchainmusic.com, or just catch ‘em live.

You can also find their first album, called Ball & Chain, at their shows or on CD Baby. It's well worth hunting down.

This one mixes Americana, rock, pop, and blues to make a strong album that should appeal to just about everyone. It’s going on the juke box immediately and you’ll be hearing a few selections on Time For The Blues shortly. Check out the website for future appearances and when you get to the door, tell ‘em the Professor sent you.

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