The Lineup 

The Richmond artists and tracks on The Sounds of Richmond, Vol. III.


Track 1
Tamir Rock, “The Music” (4:26)
It was painfully obvious that from an early age Tamir Rock was born to make music. At 6 years old, the talented MC was writing songs by looping video-game soundtracks onto old cassette tapes. After living in many different parts of the country, the twentysomething Tamir (pronounced tah-meer) has settled in Central Virginia and is considered one of the bright lights of the Richmond hip-hop scene, an artist on the rise who fuses an idiosyncratic sense of rhythm with lyrics that turn rap self-absorption into inspirational confessional. Tamir's epic statement of purpose, “The Music,” is the perfect song to kick off Style Weekly's 2010 compilation of local sounds. His stirring anthem speaks to the creative dedication of all of the artists featured here: I sacrifice / I give my self, I give my time, I give my life / Put every part, I put my all into this mic / I dump my heart, I dump my soul / Into the music. — Don Harrison


Track 2
Tim Barry, “Will Travel” (3:22)
Like so many other punk frontmen staring down middle age, Tim Barry, the former lead singer of the iconic '90s punk band Avail, has gone all solo and introspective on us. This track comes from Barry's latest solo album, “28th and Stonewall,” and couldn't sound more different from the work he did with Avail. Although imagery from one of Barry's defining habits, hopping freight trains, began to infiltrate Avail's lyrics by the end, they were never given the joyful, New Orleans-style treatment they get here. I know a train yard that ain't got no bull, he sings. Where the car knockers serve you three hot meals, send you off with cigarettes, weed and booze. Barry plays his gee-tar and sings on the track. Josh Small plays the resophonic guitar. Lance Koehler, who recorded the album, bangs the drums. Devil's Workshop alum and Mandy Moore accompanist Daniel Clark filled in the keys and the No BS Brass band wails on the horns. — Amy Biegelsen


Track 3 
Gills and Wings, “Circus”  (3:22)
Named after a lyrical metaphor that symbolizes transformation, Gills and Wings sprouted when two Miami residents moved north and enlisted three Richmond musicians to flesh out their piano- and keyboard-based compositions. Their efforts culminated in an eponymous debut EP, headlining gigs at the National, and this song, which was heard on MTV's “The Real World Brooklyn” (on tap is a multimedia project, which transforms five new songs into an audio-video experience). A self-described Prozac moment, “Circus” turns Gills and Wings' dark piano-rock sound upside down, uncovering a deeply quirky arrangement. With references to offbeat topics heard in other songs and a showcase for Gills and Wings' rhythmic capabilities, “Circus” is like a magical mystery tour for this band, and your tour guide happens to listen to a lot of Queen and Sparks. — Mike Rutz


Track 4
Photosynthesizers, “Word of Mouth” (3:40) 
Just as the song says, the Photosynthesizers don't need music videos, radio airplay or magazine articles. The band has built quite a following via the traditional “Word of Mouth.” Originally an MC-producer duo, the seven-piece ensemble came together less than a year ago to do something still rare in hip-hop: play live. It's won over audiences with big beats, electro bleeps and articulate rhymes ever since, opening for such popular acts as Black Sheep, Flobots and Snoop Dogg. The classic emcee battle “Word of Mouth” has been floating around on the group's self-titled EP since last summer (the band expects to drop a full-length record by the end of the year). “The song talks about how we don't need all of these different forms of media,” guitarist Josh Bryant says. “We're not worried about shooting videos for it, this and that. We feel like the quality [of the music] will be spread through word of mouth and if it's good enough, people will respect it and tell other people about it.” — Mike Rutz


Track 5
, “Brother Bill” (5:32)
Bill is a bad man. He's coming for revenge after he caught his brother cheatin' with his woman, and there will be violence, carelessness, regret and considerable catharsis. Welcome to “Brother Bill,” the epic centerpiece of the Palominos' album “Egos,” which was recorded at Sound of Music Studios with Alan Weatherhead. “It's a fictitious story,” singer and lyricist Trey Cutrell says. “I'm not always personal when I write my lyrics.” A follow-up EP is in the works for these rock 'n' roll desperados — Cutrell, bassist Ryan Underhill, drummer Eric Breeden and lead guitarist Mike Massa — who specialize in a brooding kind of noirish classic rock. While “Brother Bill” has a lumbering Crazy Horse-inspired construction, there's still room for the obligatory stomping and clapping to go along with the big guitars. For that, the Palominos enlisted the help of Prabir Mehta and Chris Smith, formerly of Prabir and the Substitutes. — Mike Rutz


Track 6
Miramar, “Alma” (3:11)
The boleros championed by Miramar are time-burnished Puerto Rican songs about the impossibility of love, rendered with classical elegance and restraint. The group is an intersection of two fine Richmond bands: the Brazilian Quatro Na Bossa's vocalist Laura Ann Boyd Singh and guitarist Kevin Harding, and salsa innovator Bio Ritmo's vocalist Rei Alverez, percussionist Guistino Riccio and keyboardist Marlysse ArgandoAƱa Simmons. (The band also features Butterbean bassist Rusty Farmer). On “Alma” the focus is, inevitably, on Singh and Alverez, whose charismatic parallel vocals evoke feelings both nostalgic and fresh, floating above a solid and sympathetic Latin rhythmic foundation. Marlysse, so often in her imaginative playing with Bio Ritmo, is the wild card here. The words are in Spanish, but her organ work, at once archaic and hauntingly emotional, seems the most like a different language. — Peter McElhinney


Track 7
BJ Kocen
, “I Don't Want to Go Down There” (4:03) 
By day, BJ Kocen is the co-owner (with his wife, Jennifer) of the Glave Kocen Gallery on West Main Street. By night he becomes a melodic troubadour capable of silencing a room of listeners into rapt attention (oh, that sweet falsetto). The recent release party for Kocen's excellent CD debut, “The Breaks,” saw one of the biggest crowds ever gathered at Ashland Coffee and Tea. The friendly “Beej,” who's also performed in local theater productions, is one of those rare renaissance men capable of diving headfirst into all manner of artistic expression. Let's hope he doesn't lose sight of his musical gifts. “The Breaks,” helmed by producer Paul Curreri, is filled with standout original material that Kocen has been fine-tuning for years. “I Don't Want to Go Down There” is one of the disc's inarguable highlights, a brooding lament that argues that “life is not like a blues song, it just feels like it sometimes.” — Don Harrison


Track 8
, “Facing You” (4:25)
The last time we spoke with Marionette singer and songwriter Kevin Cornell, he expressed a lot of enthusiasm for the future of the band. For its full-length debut, “Facing You,” Cornell and keyboardist Marshall O'Leary wrote songs with an overhauled lineup and the results were spectacular. The process was so organic that vocalist Kerri Helsley sometimes wrote lyrics by deciphering Cornell's scat-like vocalisms (the band also includes Adam Rose and Tom Brickman). The subject of the title track was a little less ambiguous, leading the listener through an existential crisis on a bed of psychedelic indie rock. “When you hear it, it sounds almost like I'm talking to somebody,” Cornell says. “But I thought of it more as me looking at myself in the mirror and asking, ‘What am I doing?' It's that existential angst, which is a predominant theme, along with escape, in a lot of the songs.” “Facing You” also features horns and sax from members of Bio Ritmo and Oregon Hill Funk All-Stars, lending a musical swagger to go along with the song's giant, colorful choruses. — Mike Rutz


Track 9
Fuzzy Baby
, “Sigh” (4:06)
Cute-as-a-button couple Molly Berg and Giustino Riccio make beautiful music together. They haven't released a full-length CD yet, but their quirky, often stripped-down, new-school folk songs already sound like veteran achievements — partly because both are accomplished musicians who play unusual instruments. Guitarist and singer Riccio is known as a longtime percussionist with salsa legends Bio Ritmo, and he endows every Fuzzy Baby song with memorable rhythms. Lovely singer Berg (Cracker, Jason Molina, Stephen Vitiello) plays everything from clarinet and tuba to flute, guitar, wine glasses — and even raps occasionally. Fuzzy Baby cooks up cozy music that's impossible to pigeonhole — as wide-ranging as sweetly romantic pop ballads, old-school Western reinterpretations, funky soul, funny whistle anthems and more. Included here is “Sigh,” one of its more poppy, less experimental numbers with sincere lyrics and a one-tambourine Brian Wilsonlike production quality. Unpredictable, delicious, and not to be missed: Viva Fuzzy Baby! — Brent Baldwin


Track 10
Morning Disaster, “Black Leather Books” (3:04) 
“Black Leather Books” by the Colonial Heights-based Morning Disaster is both a shimmering sonic jewel of a song — all mysterious Byrds-y chord changes and apocalyptic Doors-like lyrics — and a fascinating local music history lesson. In Morning Disaster, led by songwriter and organist Stanley Rose and longtime area drummer Bob Antonelli, we hear the first flowering of the Virginia Commonwealth University (then RPI) art school influence that so colors the music of Richmond today. “Nobody wanted to do original music around here. There was no demand for it at all,” Rose says about that period in the late '60s when the edgy Morning Disaster was opening for the likes of Iron Butterfly. The band held court at an adventurous Fan club at the corner of Laurel and Broad called the Asparagus Farm, toured the North Carolina college circuit and played packed shows at Dogwood Dell. Not long after the group recorded a demo tape in 1968 that went nowhere, it disbanded. Stanley Rose quit playing music and the group's recordings — including the sublime “Black Leather Books” — survived only on a homemade eight-track tape, which was rediscovered by archivist Brent Hosier and released on “Aliens Psychos & Wild Things Vol. 3 (Virginia & Outer Space 1965-70).” Clearly, judging from the evidence, the Morning Disaster was the one that both led the way and got away. — Don Harrison


Track 11
The Lost Satellites
, “Andromeda Rises”  4:03 
So much gets in the way of Frank Scott's peace of mind that he has to write it all down. Indeed, many of the songs on his band's debut album, “Worlds Collide,” are emotionally intimate, although the details may be hidden in metaphors about time and space. The Satellites' album, which started as a Scott solo project, had some heavyweight help — Southern pop-rock patriarchs Chris Stamey and Peter Holsapple (formerly of the dB's) assisted with mixing and keyboard work, respectively. In addition to finishing a new album at Sound of Music, the Petersburg-based band (which includes Sammy Giacco, Tina Marie and Mark Henderson) is working on its second Indie Art Rocks and watching “Worlds Collide” attract a ton of Internet radio play. One of the pick hits from the disc, “Andromeda Rises” is a slow burner, with strummed and treated guitar and a cool floating-in-the-Milky-Way vibe. — Mike Rutz


Track 12
Amazing Ghost, “Som-Somina” (5:42)
“We get loose, we get wild,” Eddie Prendergast chants on Amazing Ghost's “Som-Somina.” And, yes, you get a sense that the Ghost is where certain members of Richmond's incestuous music mafia (members of Bio Ritmo, Fight the Big Bull and the Great White Jenkins are in the lineup) go to have some booty-shaking fun. “We do it just for the fun of it,” indeed. But serious musical ideas are being dealt with too — this is experimental music that stirs the cerebral cortex as well as the funny bone. The heart of Amazing Ghost is Prendergast, who also serves as Bio Ritmo's bass player, and writes and demos the group's songs; this version of “Som-Somina” is one of his one-man-band affairs (a full-length CD with the full band, recorded at Minimum Wage Studios, will be released in June). The prolific Prendergrast isn't afraid to sample and appropriate, and even sound a little silly, in a quest to find his own musical grounding. “It's rock 'n' roll,” he says when asked about the Amazing Ghost sound. “And rock 'n' roll is dance music.” — Don Harrison


Track 13
White Cross, “Didn't See It Coming” (1:47)
People were pleased as punch when local early '80s hardcore legends White Cross got back together last year to rock the Bennyfit fundraiser for hospice care. It was even cooler when bassist Greta Brinkman (Debbie Harry, Moby, L7) joined the band and it began practicing regularly and scheduling more shows. Guitarist Mikey Rodriguez found God and no longer plays with the band, but his brother Tommy stepped in and filled his shoes. “Didn't See It Coming” is brand-new White Cross, fresh from the studio, a cantankerous lament about unforeseen circumstances that fits perfectly with the White Cross aesthetic: three loud angry chords and the truth. — Brent Baldwin


Track 14
Exebelle & the Rusted Cavalcade
, “Lowlands” (3:29)
Initially, the idea was to write songs about a rotating cast of characters, including Exebelle and a group of traveling vagabonds that make up the Rusted Cavalcade. With three songwriters at the ready, however, other song ideas flowed like whiskey from the bottle from this creative Richmond Americana band (Kerry Hutcherson, Ryan Owenby and Phil Heesen). Its latest EP, “Vivement l'Automne,” was recorded over the winter months, but the infectious “Lowlands” comes from “C.A.F.,” an alt-country blend perfect for summer porch sessions. This mandolin-heavy song revolves around two characters within the story that is Exebelle and the Rusted Cavalcade. The pair are stowaways on the cavalcade, moving along with the rest of the tribe in secret. Our ears are invited to tag along. — Mike Rutz


Track 15
Julie Karr, “Bend Your Knees” (3:08)
Julie Karr's voice is so devastating it will leave you with a lump in your throat. A Florida transplant, Karr's distinctive delivery and friendly character have quickly converted fans of the local folk scene during the past two years. She recorded a set for the Live at Ipanema series, but is tweaking her first official release with Allen Bergandahl at Viking Recording. A new split 7-inch record with California singer and songwriter Brian Stevens also is forthcoming. Whether interpreting Tom Waits or belting out an original like “Bend Your Knees,” Karr's lightly strummed acoustic guitar is no match for her raspy, full-of-soul vocals. — Mike Rutz


Track 16
Bob Hallahan and Adam Larrabee, “Jenny B” (7:51) 
Because both instruments are accustomed to playing the same melodic, harmonic and rhythmic role in a small group setting, combining guitar and piano in duet can be a recipe for sonic collision. Not that you could tell from this interplay of pianist Bob Hallahan and guitarist Adam Larrabee, who shape and share the musical space with complementary ease. “Jenny B,” Larrabee's portrait of a high-school friend, has a lovely, instantly memorable theme that the two instruments navigate in close formation, each shifting with intuitive grace from melodic statement to harmonic support.  Both Hallahan and Larrabee are adjunct instructors, the unofficial heroes and heart of Virginia Commonwealth University jazz studies. The recording is something of a Richmond swan song for one of the program's founders and most stalwart supporters, Hallahan, who's leaving after 30 years for a tenure track position at James Madison University. — Peter McElhinney


Track 17
Fairlane, “The Birds and the Bees” (3:53) 
Ask any husband and wife who attempt to make music together: It's not easy. “There were some tense moments making this album,” admits Hayley Rupe of “Light So Bright,” the CD she recorded as Fairlane with her husband, Bob. “We are both pretty bull-headed. But ultimately it made it an interesting sounding record.” Bob Rupe is, of course, the ex-member of such distinguished outfits as the Silos and Gutterball, the former bass player for Cracker, a longtime session man (Sparklehorse, Freedy Johnston) and a recording engineer of some note. “The Birds and the Bees” was waxed, like most of the rest of the Fairlane album, at the Rupes' Plaster & Pine (formerly Chrome Heart) home studio. Hayley wrote the memorable songs and says that her pop sensibilities were a good match for her husband's ability to arrange rock and Americana sounds. While “Lights So Bright” was mostly recorded last year, the Rupes included a couple of songs they'd recorded in the past, including some that feature backup from a few of Bob's former bandmates Steve Wynn, Stephen McCarthy, Johnny Hott and the late Bryan Harvey. — Don Harrison


Track 18
Jonathan Vassar & the Speckled Bird
, “A Match Made in Heaven” (4:47)
Jonathan Vassar is the sort of songwriter who can make a list of clichAcd topics to never write songs about, and then write damn good songs about all of them. Backed by his wife, Antonia, on accordion and glockenspiel, as well as multi-instrumentalists Chris Edwards and Josh Quarles as the Speckled Bird, the band spins haunting yarns about universal trials and tribulations. Working on its first full-length, “Signs and Wonders,” this song comes from the band's second EP, “The Fire Next Time.” “A Match Made in Heaven” addresses the risk of placing a partner on a pedestal beyond reproach and the subsequent disaster. On the original version, Jess Hoffa of the Broken Hips filled the instrumental part with a musical saw. On this version of the song, Antonia handles the instrumental parts with her voice, now referred to as the vocal saw. — Mike Rutz


Track 19
Diamond Black Hearted Boy, “Philippians 2:12” (3:30)
Diamond Black Hearted Boy is the moody, post-hip-hop project of Chinonyeelu Uchechi Amobi. Born in Alabama after his parents emigrated from Nigeria, Amobi grew up in Chesterfield County and has a vivid, painter's eye that seems to translate well into his colorful music, a surreal mix of noise, world, Goth, electronica and whatever strikes his fancy. A fixture in the underground noise party scene — he goes on an East Coast tour with local experimental group Bermuda Triangles later this month — Amobi has a unique vision and sound that's almost apocalyptic in tone. Take, for example, this blistering track, which takes its name from the 11th book of the New Testament. — Brent Baldwin


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