Arts & Culture

Music Reviews: January 2014

New music from Manuel Barrueco, The Country Devils and Small Apartments


Manuel Barrueco (Tonar Music)

The first half of
this disc is comprised of solo pieces nodding to 19th- and 20th-century
Spanish folk music, and Barrueco wrings every bit of dramatic emotion
and gentle nuance from them. The guitarist then performs movements from a
flamenco-infused orchestral suite with similarly evocative results.
Barrueco, who teaches at Peabody, conveys the tragedy at the heart of
the Euripides play that inspired the music and, buoyed by the Tenerife
Symphony Orchestra, taps its mythic grandeur. It’s a compelling
performance that makes Barrueco’s January appearances with the BSO
especially intriguing. They’ll be performing a guitar concerto written
for Barrueco by composer/Towson professor Jonathan Leshnoff, a piece
that Barrueco says “exploits the guitar to its fullest.” Considering the
source, that statement warrants attention.

The Quick & The Don’t Get Any

The Country Devils (RatHawk Records)

songs in, this disc seems in danger of racing past without showcasing
the band’s considerable strengths. The first half gallops along at a
breakneck pace——pausing only for the unfortunate sing-along “Mentally
Ill”——that exudes a generic cowpunk vibe that probably goes over better
in bars than on record. But when the tempo eases on “Death Blues,”
singer Michael Beresh settles into a twangy sweet spot that he and the
band sustain for the rest of the album. The transformation is
considerable as Beresh wrings feeling from each line, shadowed by sparse
banjo, mandolin, or pedal steel guitar at every turn. And, as the music
slows to a crawl on “Beatlemania vs. Gun Control” (extra credit for the
WTF title), the Devils achieve a level of poignancy that’s downright
heavenly. An album of dirges may be in order.

The Country Devils play The 8×10 on January 25 with Bobby E. Lee & The Sympathizers and Chester River Runoff.

Secrets Within

Small Apartments (Friends)

The recent
return of husband-and-wife rockers David Koslowski and Shirlè Hale,
after an extended stint in North Carolina, injects a healthy dose of
kick-ass into the local music scene. After releasing the anthemic
Monumental Life (as Free Electric State) in 2012, they’re back with a
new band featuring Helikopter drummer Greg Dohler and a characteristic
set of sublime, head-nodding tunes. It’s an unabashedly 1990s sound, but
it never veers into nostalgia. “You Never Dreamed,” “Threads,” and
“White Winter Birch” certainly recall The Pixies, Nirvana, and My Bloody
Valentine——but they also radiate a restless creativity that’s barely
harnessed by recognizable parameters. That’s what gives Koslowski’s and
Hale’s music its undeniable kick.

Small Apartments and Weekends play the Ottobar on January 25.