Tom Rhodes – Who You Were

4PAN1TIn his new album, “Who You Were,” Tom Rhodes writes with blood, sweat, tears, grit, and beauty. It’s a heartfelt, soulful collection of songs, full of attitude, warmth, and beautiful arrangements featuring award-winning musicians and harmonies from some of the best-loved singers in the Bay.

Tom’s songwriting is powerful and in peak form on this record. The turns of phrase are sharp and the poetry is thoughtful and moving, no more apparent then on “Embrace the Judas,” a song about loving the hardest people in your life, or “Who You Were”, his beautiful tribute to the passing of his father.

I’ve got reason in my rhythm/and a fire in my heart to light the way, Tom sings in “Embrace the Judas.”. In “Who You Were”, moments in his life today unexpectedly transport him back to memories of his father. There are playful moments in the record too; “Gotta Get” has a touch of Paul Simon in its playfulness but Tom makes the sound his own, bringing in The Lady Crooners, a golden-voiced talent from the bay, to give the song an upbeat, throw-back vibe. Tom is at his best on the record when the songs wander and bend artfully and playfully around genres, with an unexpected melody or a Greek myth woven into the poetry, like in “Orpheo Mourn” or “New Aphrodite.”

But poetry isn’t the only thing the album has going for it. More than the exceptional lyrics, it’s the vocal delivery of the record is what truly sets it apart into a class of its own. Tom Rhodes sometimes croons the words, sometimes growls them, but his voice is always pleasant, at times playful or sorrowful, and many times shockingly beautiful. He feels the songs with such authentic joy and sorrow that you know he’s lived every word of them, in one way or another.

“Who You Were” is a delight, and should be in every music fan’s library. It’s all honest, and all delightful. It’s full of fire, heart, and the kind of uncanny magic that is often lacking in today’s world of overworked phrases and cliché musicality. The final track and the starting track echo the same sentiment – that there’s always a way back home, that saying goodbye is hard but necessary and sometimes beautiful, and that a good collection of songs, like this, can bring us closer to the heart of everything.


Support the artist: Get “Who You Were” Today on iTunes!

Quick note from the writer: hey all, thanks for reading this. I have one request for you; if you liked this review, be sure and pass it around to your friends on Facebook, Twitter, all that…it’s the way that these amazing artists get the recognition they deserve, is if we pass these words around. So if you like this review, take a quick second, copy the link above, and share it on your social feeds, or text it to a friend, or do whatever you can to get it out. Thanks and happy listening! -Bobby Jo Valentine, chief review person at Music Worth Reviewing

Tom’s release show for “Who You Were” is July 14th at The Freight and Salvage in Berkeley – don’t miss a wonderful night of music! RSVP here using the FB event.

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Moody Little Sister – Wild Places

moody-little-sister-art.370x0-is-pid22677“Someone introduced me to the dark side of the world, where there was only one place to belong…Something deep within me knew I never could, so I had to be strong, be strong.”

Some albums are crafted tenderly with perfection in mind, and all personality lost. Some albums are all soul and no craft. But, sometimes, an album gets the balance right. Every now and then, an album comes along, grown with care and yet somehow still full of the uncanny magic and fire that makes good music good. This is a collection of songs that gets it right.

Wild Places is a beautiful, explosive, mysterious, kaleidoscopic debut from Moody Little Sister. The burning, soulful voices of Naomi Hooley and Rob Stroup cast out flickers of shadow and light with each new song. There’s depth, and beauty, and no easy answers or cliche endings…a lot like life, and exactly like music should be.

The album launches into the world with the incredibly catchy “Here I Go”, with an upbeat, tribal rhythm and Naomi’s beautiful voice taking center stage. Everyone will get goosebumps when Naomi croons Butter colored leaves stick to windows/you walk away soft as the wind blows. The song is about courage despite heartbreak, about loving life at its simplest. This is life, ain’t it/worth the taking/Say hello though my knees are shaking. It’s a lovely peek into what the rest of the record will sound like, without giving too much away.

“Ocean, Rock and Sand” will be many listeners’ favorite song, with a bluesy, Americana rhythm and a wonderfully poetic story about a man, journeying into the snow to search for gold, the woman who joins him, and the life they build together. It’s a love song without all the romance and none of the kitsch, and it’s an adventure, and it’s a fable about life, all in one. We’re going to carve a life out of the land/where the men are made of steel, and a woman’s made of ocean, rock and sand. Rob and Naomi’s vocals soar in and out of the choruses, the metaphors are powerful and poignant, and the poetry is rich and affecting.

All of the songs are so well written, it takes several listens to get all the layers of depth that the messages unveil. “Wild Places”, the title track, has a beautiful ache to it. “The Wave” is wonderfully wise. no matter how many harbors greet you/the ship is the captain and you are the wave. “Dangerous” (a line from this one starts this review) is dark and rich, and “Last Ones”, the chorus of which is a chant, shows Naomi at her strongest vocal point, full of swing and attitude and confidence and – yes – wild as anything. Her voice is both strong and sweet, and rises above the soundscape of each song to tell us her story, which is our story, which is the world’s story.

An earthy authenticity and nature-focused worldview permeates Wild Places, a hope that beauty will save the world, and that freedom is worth it, even if it’s dangerous. It’s a moving album, full of honestly good music, lyrics and rhythm. Moody Little Sister invites us to be a bit wilder, to break free of the complicated worlds we tend to build around ourselves, and to go outside to find Wild Places of our own.

Highly, highly recommended.


Support the artist: Get Wild Places Today on iTunes!

Quick note from the writer: hey all, thanks for reading this. I have one request for you; if you liked this review, be sure and pass it around to your friends on Facebook, Twitter, all that…it’s the way that these amazing artists get the recognition they deserve, is if we pass these words around. So if you like this review, take a quick second, copy the link above, and share it on your social feeds, or text it to a friend, or do whatever you can to get it out. Thanks and happy listening! -Bobby Jo Valentine, chief review person at Music Worth Reviewing


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Musical Charis – Love>Money

Musical-Charis-45541-E800Music Charis is a bright, rhythmic pop group originally from the Sacramento area made up, among others, of Blake Abbey, Jessie Abbey, and Bradley Abbey. Their latest release “Love>Money” is a friendly one, full of musical hooks, gorgeous soundscapes, and beautiful harmonies from Blake and Jessica. Unlike a lot of pop music, Musical Charis doesn’t try to distance themselves from the harder things in life. Instead, they take their light and shine it right into the heart of the darker moments, asking “what do we do after the worst has happened?” Hopeful, melodic, and percussive, the album has many, many high points and marks a fantastic chapter in what will hopefully be a long history, if we’re lucky.

“The Life” kicks the album off with a declaration that could just as well be the Musical Charis mission statement: “Be bold, be brave, and believe in love,” Blake and Jessica chant, and it’s in this powerful choice that they continue through the album. Blake was the victim of a hate crime in Sacramento back in June of this year, stabbed several times by somebody simply because he looked different. When these kinds of things happen, the instinct is to be angry, to not forgive, to quit. This urge is incredibly strong – but Blake and Jessica and the city of Sacramento banded together and instead performed benefit concerts for everyone who was mistreated, and Musical Charis kept on touring the country with their head held high.

“Forward” is another highlight on the album, taking on the feelings of doubt and boredom with a simple question: “what are you waiting for?” In every track, there’s a passion in the music that makes the listener want to hear Musical Charis live. Here’s a video of that song:

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“Darkness<Light” and “Love>Money”, the album closers, paint a fantastic portrait of what it means to really live a good life. Musical Charis have lived this out, not only with how they’ve dealt with the recent hardships, but in the million moments before, running a school in Sacramento to teach kids the power of music, playing many, many shows for free and open to all ages, and being the kind of humans that most only dream of being after watching an inspiring movie. When you find a band who doesn’t just have fantastic music, but also lives an amazing life, you go out of your way to follow this band. I hope you’ll do that for Musical Charis. Their latest album on iTunes, “Cherish the Charis”, is a good place to start. And if you happen to catch them live, be sure to get this one – Love>Money.


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Scott Mickelson – Flickering



“We’re still tragic and alive…
That’s how this one goes.”

Beautiful, heartbreaking, triumphant, intense – a panoramic of the human condition – Mickelson’s debut album pulls out all the stops and demands to be heard. By the time the last note echoes into the distance, life is shown to be clearer and, in the same breath, more mystical and incomprehensible than ever. The album is both mysterious and resonant, somehow accomplishing the evasive goal of being lyrically intelligent and universally accessible at the same time. The songwriting of the album is impeccable. Not one word is haphazardly placed, not one rhyme thrown in for convenience’s sake. Simply put, it’s a heartbreaking, life-affirming piece of art that grows stronger with every repeat listen. This particular listener is on his 5th so far, and has enjoyed every listen, and hasn’t pressed ‘fast forward’ on one track yet.

Beautiful instrumental choices – strings, horns, harmonies – flow in and out of the musical landscape. Every track ventures a deeper question about what it means to be human in this day and age. “Deaf Man’s Door” has a spare, lonely ache to it – the instrumentation pulls and draws the listener into the story. Knowing why won’t make it any better…the feeling in these words has a pathos that tells you all you need to know about the world. “Head’s Too Small” has a honky-tonk, playful vibe to it, full of individuality and spark, and a fantastic sax solo. I wear a crown, but my head’s too small to fill it/I’ll hunt you down, but I’m too weak to kill it. It’s a celebration on the paradoxes and futilities of life – but the cheerfulness of delivery tells us that perhaps the point is to enjoy the mess.  Each song on the album carries with it two things; First, an original story told the best it can be told, from a view wholly Mickelsons; but also, somehow, something that is entirely universal to the human experience. No album has ever felt so relevant, and needed, for today’s hopeful but desperate, times.

There’s something about the observations in Flickering that speaks an important message to today’s urgent, desperate culture, and our often-confused world of music. The way it is shamelessly itself and nothing else; and doesn’t pander to a radio audience or pop crowd; and yet, how it speaks about the issues of today in a way everyone needs to listen to.

“Hercules and Iron Man skewers our invincibility;

“Ten Ton Heavy Thing” and “Deaf Man’s Door” challenge our need to explain away all the terrible things that happen in life;

“In This House” is in a league all its own, taking one suburban X-bedroom little box and turning it into a reflection on memory, meaning, brevity of life, and hope.

Scott’s voice has an intense, urgent feel to it that doesn’t let up for one second. It harkens back to a time when words meant something – the voice of a prophet poet, telling us things we need to hear and that, deep down, we might already know. There’s something about good, powerful music that has the ability to slip between the hardened cracks of everyday life and speak to deeper truths. Mickelson’s debut album Flickering has it in spades. There are people who might not typically enjoy this particular brand of alternative, melodic, folk-rock energy – but there isn’t anyone who will be able to listen to Flickering end-to-end, with all of it’s spirit, poetry, pathos, and passion, and say “I was not moved” or “This is not a great album.” Great works of art hit home– they just do – at an undeniable, core level that every open heart needs and warms to.

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Genna and Jesse – Wild Enough to Try




With Genna and Jesse’s new, raw release “Wild Enough to Try,” the duo’s harmonies are tighter than ever, their lyrics are playful and honest. Genna and Jesse travel practically non-stop playing their music around the world, and the journey shows itself well in this collection of songs. Even more impressive, this album was recorded ‘live’, without any tweaks or edits, so the up-close and personal living room feel is as accurate as it comes. Feeling confessional and warm and intimate, it’s a pleasant listening experience that has some genuinely great moments.


The instrumentation has been stripped to its simplest form, and it really does feel like the listener is sitting across from the couple as they sit on a couch and croon, belt, and shed their souls with each note. The opening track “Fall Like Hell” is the catchiest, most charming love song that you’ll hear all year. It has dozens of word plays and vocal shifts, and even a pretty stellar lip trumpet solo. Clairvoyant, well, so you say/I wonder if you felt this yesterday is just one of the clever punch lines. “For the Thrill of It All” is a nostalgic, bittersweet reminiscing of being friends with a risk-taker. The singers alternate between tracks to great effect, and although all of the tracks take their time and don’t hurry telling their story, the variety of moods on each number keeps the listener engaged throughout. Many of the songs are playful, and some are heart wrenching and gorgeous, like “No Place For Kids Like Us,” which proves to be the best song yet for Genna’s show-stopping vocals.


It’s not a perfect album – there are moments when the punchiness of the instruments feels a bit too abrasive or when falsetto falls a bit flat. But this isn’t an album where Genna and Jesse are trying to say, “Hey, look at us perfect people making this perfect music perfectly!” It’s raw, and open, and honest, and willing to keep some mistakes for the sake of a greater connection with the listener.


One of the best compliments that can be given to an album is that it makes the listener want to immediately go and see a show live, and that’s exactly the effect “Wild Enough to Try” has. It’s engaging, simple yet clever, and musically vibrant and diverse – all of the wonderful, wild things that make up the nomadic and enigmatic Genna and Jesse.


Best Tracks: Fall Like Hell, For the Thrill of It All, No Place for Kids Like Us

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David Luning – Just Drop on By

If the world is ending for prolific singer/songwriter David Luning, it’s ending with a good-natured, two-steppin’ dance that everyone can tap their feet along to. His new album ‘Just Drop On By’ is a fusion of thoughtful, melodic folk and pulse-quickening Americana that is instantly accessible, smile-inducing, and very, very charming.

The instrument work is amazing, but it is David’s vocals, gritty and heartfelt, both strong and vulnerable, that takes the spotlight and shine in a way that stands him out from the crowd. There are almost two separate albums in this work – one with a hapless, dance-worthy country drawl to it that throws all cares to the wind and rolls the windows down, and another that is thoughtful and melodic, with universal themes about life and wonderful slide guitar swoons. The good news is that both sides of the coin are good!

Even in the noisiest tracks, David’s words are easily understood and we’re thankful for that. Humor, pathos and depth all take their turns in his stories. “Buddies Till the End” is a warm, humorous commentary on friendship, with a wonderful surprise at the end. “A Little Bit Bad” is a gentle, beautiful fable about accepting the bad in life with the good, and understand that you often can’t have the good without the other. The slide guitar is absolutely beautiful in this track, soaring and swinging throughout the choruses. “Always Gonna Be That Way” is a song that takes despair and joyfully flings it at the listener, with a twist at the end that will leave everybody smiling.

Actually, nearly every song is bound to leave the listener smiling. Underneath many of the dark themes of the songs is an overall sense of happiness that permeates this album, often in a delightfully paradox to the subject matter of these songs. There are some tear-jerkers though – “You and Me and the Devil in Between” is about a relationship headed downward – The flowers in the vase are all dead and brown/dancin’ in the hallway, just a memory for us now There is a great, galloping rhythm to the song, but it’s also very sad. “Northern California,” “Bed of Roses,” and a few others have their share of Americana melancholy. Their presence on the album serve as both a welcome duality and variety to the tracks, and also give it depth and meaning.

The Summary: David Luning’s debut album “Just Drop on By” is a gritty, joyful, soulful piece of Americana that is instantly accessible and definitely worth picking up. We hope to hear much, much more from him in the years to come, and this is sure to establish him as a definitive voice in the Americana/folk scene.


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Danny Malone – Balloons


Well, holy cow. What an album.

Danny Malone is one of the best musical movements to ever come out of Austin, Texas, and a lot of good things have come out of Austin, Texas. His new album ‘Balloons’ solidifies him as an expert in sincere, powerful songwriting that never sacrifices its poetic finesse. It’s as if Danny has taken his heart, fermented it in a 16th century castle in Denmark, and wrung it out over 11 songs, all filled with melodic poetry and great soundscapes. Bottoms up! You’ll be drinking some of the finest singer/songwriter brew that has been served for several years.

Here’s one off the new album:

His melodies are catchy as ever, with expressive percussion and synth choices giving fantastic accents to his songwriting. And that is something that needs to be brought up – Danny’s songwriting. The lyrics of Danny’s music has always drawn me in, but songs like “Spiderlegs,” a haunting story about addiction and loyalty, “Wait on Me,” which finishes with a great question, and “Fall Back Plan” all have some especially powerful imagery. “San Diego” has a wonderful chorus, Danny confesses a moment that we’ve all had before: What’s happening to me/I’m sick of myself/It’s never one thing/cause it’s always something else.

Danny Malone’s new album ‘Balloons’ is an emotional, powerful tour-de-force of vulnerable personal biography and insightful musings about life. Completely unique, Danny is a fresh voice in songwriting whose talent extends beyond just great vocals, production, and melodies, all which are a part of this album. Danny is a refreshing break because you can feel his passion coming out of the headphones and into your heart.

Danny Malone’s new album ‘Balloons’ is available on Itunes. MWR usually gives favorite tracks, but when it comes out…you need to get the whole thing.

It’s that good.

Bobby, Music Worth Reviewing


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Adrian Bourgeois – Pop/Art


Pop:ArtThis is an album that took a long time to review. Like the album cover, full of galaxies and nebulae, Adrian Bourgeois’s new album, Pop/Art, is a big concept. Really big. In the 24 songs, Adrian’s laid it all on the line. And in the end, after the last note echoes into the distance, that’s a good thing. It’s a bit messy, full of beautiful lyrics, catchy melodies and great production, and it’s well worth a listen.

There are a lot of ideas and tones dancing through this album – catchy love songs reminiscent of the Beatles (‘Everybody Knows It Was Me’), aching ballads (‘Don’t Look Away’), songs full of angst-filled questions about the purpose of life and being lost and found (‘Waterfalls,’ ‘The Lost and The Free’). Some of them resonate stronger than others, but the more you listen, the more you realize every song is a piece of the tapestry that is Adrian Bourgeois. Almost every song has a different style to it, and each track is fully produced, from the western ‘Waterfalls’ complete with wailing harmonica solo and bouncing piano to heavy rock anthem “The Lost and The Free,” which has a taste of both The Killers and Bruce Springsteen.

Immediately, the lyrics stand out as the strong point of the album. Adrian has a spectacular way with words; he paints a picture clearly and knows how to hit the heart at just the right moment. Some of the best moments of the album come when he turns a common phrase unexpectedly into a piece of poetry:

She makes him laugh and he laughs like a child
Who would’ve thought laughter could grow in the wild
(New December)

You’re only as strong as what your hands can hold,
And what your hands can’t hold,
You can’t claim as yours
(As Your Hands Can Hold)

This isn’t an album for all audiences. This isn’t trying to be. Adrian is putting everything out there, and it’s raw, personal, multi-faceted and sometimes messy and sometimes beautiful – hey! Like life! But for those that want to listen to a good story of epic proportions, told by a poet whose skills will only get sharper, this is the album for you. There’s no better karma then supporting an emerging artist. Also – it’s only $15 for all 24 tracks!

Favorites: Waterfalls, Don’t Look Away, As Your Hands Can Hold, My Sweet Enemy, The Howling Wind

Listen to the whole album and purchase it by clicking here



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Katie Ekin – Caught Up in You

Katie EkinKatie Ekin bursts on the scene with a gorgeous-sounding, beautifully made EP. Her six-song offering ‘Caught Up in You’ is like cotton candy – it’s light, it’s sweet, and I want some more. Right now. Nom nom.

Katie is a singer/songwriter from breezy, beautiful Santa Cruz, and her music echoes the lightness and beauty of the beaches that she’s no doubt walked on ever since she was old enough to walk.

Katie’s music is a mix of Ingrid Michaelson, Kate Nash, and Regina Spektor, with a little bit of Taylor Swift thrown in for good measure. Her songs are full of unrequited love and musings on relationships, but it works, and it works very well. “Dance With You” kicks off the album with a jumpy, light ukulele strum, a cla-clack, clack of drums, and background vocals chirping and do-do-dooing. It’s straight from an indie film, and so are most of her tracks – they’re ready for immediate placement into television and commercials.

“Trouble” will quickly be a fan favorite, showing off Katie’s spectacular, soulful voice and her powerful, beautiful use of melody. It’s also more moody and thoughtful than the rest of the tracks on the record, and the contrast works to her advantage. “Grown Up Fairytale” is the radio hit of the album, talking tongue-in-cheek by the distance between Disney and reality. You choose my ugly sister, she rides off with you/and my fairy godmother says ‘your wishes won’t come true.’ It somehow finds the line between sassy and sweet and dances us across it with bubblegum-pop flair. “Caught Up In You” is a classic chord progression with typical lyric twist, and “Before I Stop Believing” is a lullaby-styled ballad spelling out fears of loving and yet a plea to be loved.

What a spectacular kickoff EP. With Andy Kong producing the album (and playing almost every backing track), Katie has chosen wisely, and this album will take her far.

Buy her new album today on Itunes!


Rating: 9/10

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Genna & Jesse – Give and Take

Genna & Jesse give and takeGenna & Jesse’s debut album “Give and Take” is a clever, sweet collection of well-crafted, well-produced stories. Each song is a little piece of wisdom that doesn’t take itself too seriously, but always has a little universal message to it. Passionate vocals, catchy hooks and rhythms, and an overall sense of irresistible charm make this one of the summer’s first and best surprises so far.

Genna & Jesse (the ‘&’ sign is a part of their name, which only makes it more awesome) live an unapologetically nomadic musical life, traveling across the country to share their tunes. I’ve had the opportunity to see them live personally, and watching them give their gift in person is a beautiful experience not to be missed. If they come through your area, take advantage and get there!

The title track kicks off the album with a fun, hooky plea of a lover hoping for  some equal love from their partner. Everything – the harmonies, the bouncing drums in the background, Genna throwing down vocals with attitude and a smile in her voice, flows together perfectly. The tracks wander through different genres, but there’s always a friendly vibe throughout, whether it’s the romantic “Rosa” about a girl who never lets you down or even the moody “Terrible Lies.”

This is a great album from a wonderful duo. It’s friendly, fun, kind of sexy, full of personality, and the lyrics ring true and deep. Be sure to pick it up and give it a listen.

Rating: 9/10

Get Genna and Jesse’s album on iTunes

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