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A lot of bands have released strong independent projects. Check below for reviews of these self-made albums, many of which are labours of love.

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Deadly Nightshade Family SingersThe Deadly Nightshade Family Singers, Plain Brown Suit - Acoustic combo from Minneapolis blends folk, Latin, Klezmer and middle European influences. Listen for the instrumental, "Firn di Mechutonim/Freylach," with its accordion-based melody, which juxtaposes against "Sal, the Millionaire," with lead vocals by Lisa Fuglie.

Lisa GoulderLisa Goulder, Hurry My Heart - Bay Area resident Lisa Goulder will fool you with Hurry My Heart, because the singer has a big, Nashville-style voice. Production work by husband Pete Elman will be the envy of many aspiring musicians. 1/2

Stationary PoetsThe Stationary Poets - The Stationary Poets are a combo based in Virginia Beach, Virginia. The highlight of the album is "So Long," a J. Geils-influenced blues belter. Better than your basic alley cat, The Stationary Poets can grind in the best bar blues tradition.

Rufus ManeuversRufus Maneuvers, One Clear Moment - Five-piece combo from Buffalo, New York wants you to do the bar boogie with them. Listen for "Ice Man," which opens with a Collective Soul-styled crunchy guitar, and has the refrain, "I want to be an ice man /Just a nice man/Not an asshole." 1/2

Larissa LamLarissa Lam, On the Way Up - Young Christian singer with degree from UCLA. While Larissa tends toward the slower side on most tracks, my money lands on the bouncy, "I Can Do Anything." 1/2

Rita ChiarelliRita Chiarelli, Breakfast At Midnight - Anybody who calls the tough turf of Hamilton, Ontario her hometown deserves a listen. Veteran Canadian blues mama serves up the goods with such tracks as "Eggs Over Easy (With Another Drink)."

Arthur YoriaArthur Yoria was voted Houston's best singer/songwriter in a 1998 reader's poll. With his four-song EP, Yoria shows textured pop on "Several Mistakes in a Row."

James HunterJames Hunter, Kick It Around - James Hunter is a British import who does a serious turn on early 60s Sam Cooke and the Soul Stirrers. The result is Kick It Around, a retro release if ever there was one.

Signing EinsteinSigning Einstein is a Chicago-based trio featuring the exciting voice of Gina Gonzales. The concluding song, "Wipe the Pages Clean," is a definite keeper, with Gonzales' layered vocals and a bouncy beat. 1/2

Three Normal HumansThree Normal Humans, Weekend at Bellevue - I almost didn't make it past the cover (which looks like some kind of punk rock thing). But once you get inside, you'll find a witty folk-rock combo. It's hard not to smile at songs like "I'm in Love (With the Girl from Cell Block 3)" and "I Don't Want to Look Like Anyone."

Gini DoddsGini Dodds, Mellowdrama - Here's a hot broad from my old home town. Gini Dodds, hailing from the Twin Cities, can belt out a rock and roll song. Dodds sails when she lets loose on such up tempo rockers as "Sweet Christine" and "Save Me."

Warren ButtlerWarren Buttler, The Properties of Mercy - Here's an entrancing inistrumental collection from Georgia-based Warren Buttler, spent ten years as a cop and another eight years overseas in counter-terrorism.

Says Buttler, "'Highway to Kuwait' is what I remember of the access highway from the Kuwait City Airport to downtown feeling like before the war. I was there a lot during the war between Iraq and Iran in the 80's."1/2

ShowgoatsThe Showgoats, Catfish Saturday - The Showgoats are a talented five-piece combo hailing from North Carolina. The group started by playing just for kicks, but now has a smooth power pop sound with elements of The Jayhawks and R.E.M.1/2

Stir FriedStir Fried, Last of the Blue Diamond Miners - Get ready for Stir Fried, a Bay-area combo that mixes folk, country, funk, and psychedelia to produce a jam-oriented sound in the vein of Rusted Root and Widespread Panic.1/2

Fake Chapter Various Artists, Fake Chapter Eleven Records - Get this collection from indie label Fake Chapter Eleven Records. "Stoppless" is a great track by riot girls Sindee Kise. Even better is label honcho Michael Gilligan reading some hilarious email "poetry" to the company.

Susan's  RoomSusan's Room, Room #5 - Now on her fifth album, ex-Berkeley resident Susan Streitwieser and her husband-guitarist, Tom Manche, deliver folk rock, with a sense of angst and alienation.

Mike FarleyMike Farley Band, Halfaworldaway - Midwest rocker Mike Farley showcases his band and songwriting skills on Halfaworldaway. With a polished bar rock sound, Farley shows how it's done in Cleveland.1/2

Joe WebbJoe Webb, Joe Webb - After "shocking fellow students at the Berklee College of Music by cutting off all communication with them for two years," Joe Webb offers us his view of life through "blooded stained eyes." The four-song EP contains well-made slices of LA rock, including "Alice Drops Dots in Her T" and "Missing Messiah."

Bill RetoffBill Retoff, Reanimation - Reanimation is a power pop delight from Bill Retoff. If you dig the Beatles, circa Revolver, or yearn for or the long-forgotten Moon Martin, then Retoff is the man for you.1/2

Crazy MaryCrazy Mary, She Comes in Waves - New York City continues to turn out the most interesting, challenging, experimental pop. And so it is with She Comes in Waves, in which the spirit of Arthur Lee (from Love) transports itself to NYC and makes college rock.

J. P. JonesJ. P. Jones, Ashes - Singer-songwriter J.P. Jones has been on a tear, after an 18-year layoff between albums. Ashes is a polished effort, with somber, acoustic-based confessionals.1/2

God's Greatest Hits God's Greatest Hits Volume II - Here's an interesting little train wreck. God, a combo from New York City, has released a progressive song cycle/rock opera. While I'm not sure I follow the story, give these guys an E for effort.1/2

Julian Calendar Julian Calendar, Of the Color Nude - Valley performer Todd B. Williams delivers a downbeat debut that sounds like it was made by someone who has spent too many long winters in Iceland.

Richard BurrRichard Burr, Let It Rain - Richard Burr scores again with his second album, a slice of country that shows his San Joaquin Valley roots. What can I say? - I just like the guy's voice. 1/2

AquariusAquarius, Tailor-Maid + Straight Jacket - Florida resident Patrick Green builds on the shoulders of Frank Zappa on this ambitious production, with with elements of progressive rock/Yes throughout.

Glen DelpitGlen Delpit, High Water Everywhere - Fresno favorite returns with his fourth album, filled with images of down-on-their-luck gamblers, itinerant preachers, and burning rain. The album's high points are songs like "Dark Carnival," in which Delpit works from his story-telling strengths. 1/2
Steve Ono
Steve Ono, Voice of a Friend
- Steve Ono, a stalwart on the local music scene, delivers an easy-going package on Voice of a Friend. "First Girl" and "Serious Man" are the highlights of the album, easy-going acoustic folk numbers that highlight Steve's mellow voice.

Cerro NegroCerro Negro, Corazones Locos - Local flamenco trio struts its stuff on this friendly recording. 1/2
Other indie reviews (in chronological order):

The Alice Project, The Big Number - Headlined by singer Alice Leon. Listen for the catchy, "Jane is on the Phone (on the Island)," with its polyrhythmic sound.

Pat Cisarano, Ah - Based around Cisarano's sultry voice, the album blends jazz and blues in a contemporary sound.

The Figs, Avalanche - New York duo with pop sound.

Special Blendz, Something Special/Cycles of Love - Pennsylvania show band includes four vocalists with tight East Coast harmonies.

Tonewelders, Five Sticks - Solid roots-rock recording from Gainesville, Florida resident David Glennon.

Rhonda Watson - Youthful singer with country influences and a smooth delivery.

Seventeen, Ransom Your Handsome - Eight-song EP from Boston mystery trio.

Bob Delevante, Porchlight - Earnest roots-rock from Nashville veteran.

Mark Stuart, Songs From a Corner Stage - Singer and guitar player for the Long Gone Daddies steps to the front with his solo album (including help from wife Stacey Earle).

Debbie Anders, Suburbs of Eden - NewYork City resident releases pleasing eight-song CD with a piano-based feel.

Nashville: Off the Record - Songwriter Joyce Harrison gathered some of the unknown heroes of Nashville to record this ten-track surprise.

The Robustos, The New Authentic - Well-oiled ska band from Atlanta. Dig the groovy horns and the simmering vocals of Tonya Abernathy.

Danney Alkana, Rock the Bach - Skilled guitarist works anonymously in a music shop for years, then is invited to record innovative album of songs by classic composers.

Chaz Vegas, Venus - Film maker and musician brings his atmospheric visions to your CD player.

Bob Hicky, The Proof is in the Booze - Drunked-up speedgrass from Washington.

E.G. Daily, Tearing Down the Walls - Actress and voice-over talent E.G. Daily (a star on Nickelodean's "Rugrats") returns to the recording studios after a ten-year absence.

The Situation, The Situation - With drummer Buddy Greco, Jr. in the band, the Situtation ranges from the tongue-in-cheek white boy rap of "What Would DeNiro Do?" to the Big Head Todd-influenced, "Our Situation."

Rachael Sage, Smashing the Serene - Singer walks down the path blazed by Ani DiFranco and Tori Amos, while mixing in her own blend of mid-20s big city anxiety.

Subterra, The Speed of Pain - With his gutsy voice, Howie Doyle take the Texas singer/songwriter tradition and stretches into the alternative genre.

The Cultivators, Mama's Kitchen - minneapolis-based combo features countrified rock in the style of Wilco and the Jayhawks.

Vito Alvaro, Hard Days Gone - Canadian singer/songwriter Vito Alvaro has an up-to-date storytelling style.

Blue Millennium, Vintage Hi-Fi - Blue Millennium is an 11-piece combo based in Austin, Texas, with a smooth pop and jazz sound.

Ten Story Love - power pop quartet with influences of Todd Rundgren and Badfinger.

The Junk Bonds - Brooklyn power trio pulls no punches on five-song EP.

Skipjack, Love & Hate - Studio hands from New Jersey perform in the vein of Genesis or Journey.

Bob Bradshaw, No Assembly Required - Singer-songwriter from San Francisco displays the influences of Dave Alvin.

Nitro, Mind Trap - Music from the "Demo Scene."

Warm, Make You Worry - Spooky rock from Toronto

Watts, Flash! - Boston rockers help to keep the tradition alive.

Trike Shop, Mad Pop Inventions - Fresno band with 60s pop and psychodelia influences

Mark Hodges, Everything that Rises Must Converge - Inventive garage rock project

Richard Burr, Mile after Mile - Country-influenced pop, with maturity and insight

Steffen Heins, Jenni Rain - Accoustic folk from the heartland

Mike Gibbins, A Place in Time - Solo effort from former Badfinger band member

Tabitha's Secret, Don't Play with Matches - Dark country rock, for playing at 3:00 a.m.

Mike Estep, One Lane Bridge - Subdued singer/songwriter

Beth Singer, Beth Singer - Coltish country crooner from Oregon
- Randy Krbechek © 2003

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