CDs by Martha's Trouble, Plunky & Oneness, and 7Seconds 

Now Hear This

Martha's Trouble, "The Road Ahead," (Aisling)
This homage to youthful dreams of faraway places and the magic of the open road by Ontario folk duo Martha's Trouble is not terribly poetic or musical, but it has its undeniable charm. Using simple arrangements based on acoustic guitar and light percussion, the songs of Jen and Rob Slocumb focus on those wandering days of discovery so common to the free-spirited. Throughout the 10 self-penned tunes, theirs is a trip that takes them down the highway through the age-old questions of love to the delights in life's beauty and promises. Jen sings her songs of the journey with both confidence and uncertainty, in turns sounding like the young and beautifully wide-eyed Joni Mitchell and a less strident Alanis Morissette. Written in such far-flung locations as Baton Rouge, Toronto and Oklahoma, the songs capture those days when confusion and possibility walk hand-in-hand, and how much experience — or patience — the listener has with such adventures will probably play a large part in this project's appeal. Any cynic could easily dismiss "Road" as the self-centered fixations of misspent youth. But, on the other hand, isn't it fun to be young? "Road" is the uncomplicated celebration of fleeting moments in a life that's all too short. What's wrong with that? Martha's Trouble plays Poe's Pub Wednesday. — Ames Arnold Plunky & Oneness, "Saxy Mellow Moments," (N.A.M.E. Brand)
There's good news and not-so-good news about Richmond-based Plunky & Oneness. The good news is the R&B-African-jazz-funk band's newest is a concept project of smooth/mellow funk instrumentals for "those times when the music imitates candlelight, warm smiles and tender touches." The aggregation doesn't succumb to the strictly saccharine sounds of what passes largely for smooth jazz nowadays. However - and this is the not-so-good news - there are moments when there is too much happening, musically speaking. And arguably too much of a sameness in tenor and tunes. Saxophonist J. Plunky Branch penned 10 tracks, the exceptions being R. Kelly's much-covered "I believe I Can Fly" and S. Sarbourough's "Love Changes." Those tunes have a more simplistic melodic line than Branch's tunes, which sometimes seem to be two conversations on different wavelengths. The more upbeat tracks, especially the urban funk of "Do Drop Inn," are sometimes superior to the mellower. — Marvin Leon Lake 7Seconds, "Scream Real Loud," (Side One Dummy Records)
A lot of folks throw around the word "sellout" when a band makes a musical comeback. Such was the case with the reformation of pioneering underground acts such as the Sex Pistols, The Misfits and Bauhaus, for example. I'm sure the case is no different for the innovative 1980s hardcore powerhouse 7Seconds, only they never really stopped putting out new material. The release of the new album from 7Seconds, "Scream Real Loud," documents one of the group's maniacal performances, this time caught live at the Troubadour in Hollywood. The recording goes on to show that the band is still in tiptop form after almost 20 years together. The singing style of frontman Kevin Seconds has matured nicely with his coming of age while the music dispensed by his fellow bandmates is played tighter and more furiously than ever before. Hardcore classics such as "Definite Choice," "Trust," and "This Is The Angry" (the album gets its title from a line in this song) are all present. On the record they even treat their live audience, as well as the listener at home, to renditions of Nena's "99 Red Balloons" and Sham 69's "If The Kids Are United." 7Seconds still has a definite edge, even if it may no longer be a straight one, and I see them still living by the credo of their song "Young Til I Die." You can also bet I'd pay to see them live despite the possibility of some kid complaining about how they've sold out for making a living playing the music they (and scores of other people) love. — Angelo DeFranzo

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