Now Hear This 

Local band edition.

Heath Haynes and the Crying Shames "Spring Release" (Emerald City Sounds)

"Spring Release" is a strong package of 12 classically crafted pop-rock tunes about wishes and chances, carrying on at bars and complicated girls.

Frontman Haynes has a gift for melody and a facility for making a song sound like an old friend on first listen. Guitar breaks have beginnings, middles and ends, and drums thunder without becoming overbearing. Songs reverberate with rhyme and rhythm, and the tunes are anchored in clear images, ones that occasionally cause a chuckle. Nice vocal harmonies abound, and Haynes sells the songs with an appealing naturalness that is the mark of a good pop singer.

If there's a quibble it's that there's a sameness that settles in after a while. Fortunately, it's a pleasant sameness for the most part. Except for the closing song, "Hello Fortune Cookie," which sounds like an afterthought, "Spring Release" offers much for fans of Big Star and other performers of melodic, punchy rock. This is a band with a promising future. ***1/2 — Ames Arnold

Gaye Adegbalola with Roddy Barnes "Neo-Classic Blues" (HTMCD)

I've never been a big fan of Adegbalola's strident blues style as lead singer for Fredricksburg's Saffire — the Uppity Blues Women, but this solo side project is excellent. I'm still not sold on her interpretive style, but the overall execution of this package makes impossible for a blues fan to ignore.

Accompanied only by the piano of Roddy Barnes, Adegbalola presents a program of 20 mostly classic songs that were recorded by women blues pioneers, and it aptly reveals the genre's fearless stance during its genesis. She clearly knows and loves her subject matter as she runs through tunes by Ma Rainey, Memphis Minnie, Alberta Hunter, Duke Ellington, Tommy Dorsey and others. The lyrical format is as bold as any of today's music; songs hit on themes of cheating, drinking, oral sex, dope, abuse, revenge and incest.

Luckily, Adegbalola has included liner notes that give a short commentary on each song, and the information is valuable to both longtime and novice blues fans. As a result, the package works well as both an instructional tool and a musical adventure. Barnes' excellent touch on the keys drives the tunes with undeniable authenticity. I only wonder if he could have been mixed more prominently. Regardless, this rendering of classics from the '20s and '30s is a fine effort to preserve and honor a past too often forgotten in a day when electric blues rule. ***1/2 — A.A.

DJ Williams Projekt "Wrong Notes Write" (self-released)

There's something charming about the energy and enthusiasm this local guitarist and digital-loop artist pours into his debut CD. It creates the illusion of innovation, which may be as good as the real thing to fresh ears who won't hear it all as recycled Return to Forever, Jazz Crusaders, Pat Metheny or a host of lesser jazz-rock bands.

It doesn't help that Williams' unnamed saxophone player uses a font of fusion clichés, and the equally anonymous drummer is too busy playing to listen. Williams' guitar playing occasionally rises from the pastiche with a nice tone or a good lick, but the good moments get watered down by repetition. One piece, "Interlude," starts prettily and stays there.

"Wrong Notes Write" means well, and it has a good personality. But given Williams' apparent ambition, evident talent and the grass roots support for his one-man performances, the bar should be set higher than this. *1/2 — Peter McElhinney

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