Lovage "Music to Make Love to Your Old Lady By"; Porterhouse Quintet "Thumbs Up Little Buddy"; Trailer Bride, "High Seas,"; Marion Delgado "An Unfocused Lens Serves A Purpose After All"; Deanna Bogart Band "Live" 

Now Hear This

Lovage "Music to Make Love to Your Old Lady By" (75 Ark)

Gorillaz might be the first time he's made a blip on mainstream radar, but producer Dan "The Automator" Nakamura is not a newcomer. He's been the hip-hop auteur behind the scenes on many very cool albums, including his resurrection of rapper Kool Keith as Dr. Octagon and Handsome Boy Modeling School, co-produced with Prince Paul.

Lovage is another collaborative effort like Gorillaz. Two main vocalists, Mike Patton and Jennifer Charles (from Faith No More and Elysian Fields, respectively), share time with other well-known artists on this sendup of overly romantic "Quiet Storm" music.

The Automator appears on the cover as his alter ego, Nathaniel Merriweather from Handsome Boy Modeling School, hilariously dressed up in fake mustache and glasses. He remains in the shadowy areas above the stage, pulling the strings behind minimalist-DJ Kid Koala. Like the rest of The Automator's work, this is another musical treatise on hip-hop, filled with innovative ideas sublimely executed.

On "Pit Stop," a lazy hip-hop beat is kept company by piano keys, acoustic guitar strings and Koala scratching in whispers. Most of the album follows suit, with Charles' narcotic vocals helping to send us off to a dreamland where hip-hop could provide the movement behind a sweet, slow dance, or alternatively, the soundtrack to smoky film noir.

All this sounds like the making of a fantastic CD. But Patton's scratchy vocal style grates, and he doesn't fit in like Blur's Damon Albern does in Gorillaz. On "Pit Stop," Patton rasps, "I pulled in to your truck stop/ and a sleepin' on the asphalt/ Eighteen wheelin' in siphoned gas ..." I don't know if he's to blame for those lyrics, but certainly he is for the abrasive delivery.

Don't expect the variety found on the Gorillaz CD, but Lovage is a solid combo whose smooth music even Jay-Z-bashing hip-hop haters could get into. — Wayne Melton

Porterhouse Quintet "Thumbs Up Little Buddy" (Luan Records)

"NO GUITARS WERE USED IN THE MAKING OF THIS ALBUM." This is what the Porterhouse Quintet proudly proclaims on the back cover of their Lauan Records debut, "Thumbs Up Little Buddy." My first thought was that I would not be able to give an unbiased review. But after learning that they did not consider the bass when making this statement, and that there is, in fact, no such thing as an unbiased review, I popped it in.

Keyboardist and founder Joey Porter quickly quenched my thirst for a dominant lead instrument with the Herbie Hancock punishment he dishes out on his helpless Hammond and Fender Rhodes throughout a nine-song odyssey through predominantly instrumental funk, jazz and throw-down groove.

The title track leads off with Porter providing the aforementioned keyboard nastiness, Sean Foote going to town on a spitfire bass line accompanied perfectly by Micah Kassell's head-bobbing drums, and Josh Cliburne and Derek Sims rounding out the mix with their aggressive horn play. The Portland, Ore.-based quintet doesn't wait long to showcase its diversity. On "Blanket Party," Kassell lays down perfectly imperfect drumbeats upon which the others display remarkable interplay for a young band. Another highlight is the simmering "Steak Sauce Part 1 (Bring on the Sauce)," in which Porter drops his keys in and out of the rhythm section to form a thick funk foundation for the horns to run rampant over.

The album is improv-friendly, with most songs weighing in at a healthy dose over five minutes, and some coming in at over seven. From the slow jazz of "One of Those Moods" to the Stevie Wonder swagger of "Juicy," Porterhouse pays homage to heroes of the past, while still maintaining the integrity one can only find in an original sound. Thumbs up, little buddies. — Ford Gunter

Trailer Bride, "High Seas," (Bloodshot)

Listening to Trailer Bride, I'm reminded of walking through the woods at midnight as a kid. A little bit scary and eerie, equally quiet and welcoming, the music of this quartet envelops a listener with its forbidden pleasures. From the opening tale of "Jesco," an ex-con on the prowl, to the closing "Bird Feet Feelings," this 13-cut CD is packed with edgy intrigue.

Led by lead singer, songwriter, banjoist and saw player Melissa Swingle, Trailer Bride manages to keep a sense of humor while it speaks of ghosts and wronged lovers. "Itchin' for You" puts sex up front and center in a deliciously languid way, while "Ghost of Mae West" waltzes us through vaults of mystery.

Swingle sings with a laid-back intensity that perfectly suits this stripped-down outfit, and the addition of the musical saw is no gimmick as "Drift in D" proves. Throughout, this group weaves a strong spell, whether leaving its acoustic-based tunes hanging in midair or polishing them off with a subterranean hoedown flourish. Trailer Bride's tranquil Southern Gothic is the perfect soundtrack for a full-moon night. — Ames Arnold

Marion Delgado "An Unfocused Lens Serves A Purpose After All" (Bug Records)

Now for something completely different. Forgetting for a moment that "punker" music is my forte, there's a lot to be said for the brilliant simplicity of indie pop that borders on emo. Such is the case in regard to the musical stylings of Richmond's own Marion Delgado.

Like an Engine 88 for the new century (minus that outfit's annoying vocalist), Marion Delgado does differentiate itself from the former by shifting the tone of each song back-and-forth between moody and just plain melancholy. That might sound like a downer, but hey, that's emo for you, and this album isn't a bad example of the genre. Between the sullen guitar-driven pop songs, snippets of electronic programming lend a welcome change in atmosphere and sound, particularly in the intro to "Project Isosceles."

Marion Delgado at times also reminds me of bands as diverse as Lifetime, Chisel, Sebadoh, and (dare I say it) a lightweight Tool. While maybe not the best record to party down to, it serves as a great soundtrack for drinking alone at four in the morning after just having had your significant other break up with you. Any other time, use your own discretion. — Angelo DeFranzo

Deanna Bogart Band "Live" (self-released)

This Washington, D.C.-based musical whirlwind is at her best when playing for an audience and this live recording goes a long way toward capturing Bogart at the top of her rock-blues-jazz-boogie game. Recorded at the Birchmere and the Barns of Wolf Trap in Northern Virginia, Bogart sets her keyboard and sax on fire as she runs through a 10-song set with energy and soul to spare.

"O.K. I'll Play the Blues" playfully examines her mixed-bag approach to performing, while "Won't Be Long" gives Deanna a chance to hit on all vocal cylinders. "Honeybee" is a slice of cool jazz featuring the excellent chops of guitarist Kajun Kelley and bass player Eric Scott. "They Said It Wouldn't Rain" and the lovely "But You Know" show off the singer's tender ballad side. "Love and Happiness" hits a great groove as Deanna and Scott team up for a classic rhythm and blues duet and the rampaging piano on the closing cut "Wrong Side of Love" ends things with an appropriate fiery finish.

Bogart can sing and play with the best, and her tough, dynamic band is top-notch, yet Deanna Bogart remains a well-kept secret in Richmond and many places outside the D.C. area. "Live" shows why this multifaceted musical talent deserves a wider audience. — A.A.


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