Musician: Carmen Grillo
Album name: A Different World
Why you should listen: Carmen Grillo loves his guitar. He’s had a successful career playing the instrument with the likes of The Sons of Champlin and Rita Coolidge. Grillo was a member of Tower of Power starting in the late 1980s and there’s a strong brass presence in most of these songs. “A Different World” is 12 tracks written by Grillo, collaborations with other musicians and a few covers including “A Real Mother For Ya” by Johnny Guitar Watson. Production is slick as the CD package with four photos of Grillo in various poses of affectionate embrace with his Fender.
The liner notes indicate that concluding gentle ballad “You’re The One” was written “To My Lovely Denise,” otherwise with a few lyrical changes it could have been about his guitar. “I Got The Sauce,” “Prototype,” “Transatlantic Boogie” and “River of Molten Roc” are strictly instrumental numbers. There’s no shortage of electric guitar heroics throughout. Liberal use of the horn section as on the title track is a welcome change-up. Also helping out is Bill Champlin appearing on a few numbers playing Hammond B3, notably in “Everything’s Going to Be Alright.” Grillo’s song lyrics tend toward the nonspecific. Phrases such as “twist of fate” and “strike you like lightning” are matched in generic patterns with little meaning. There are definitely no story songs here; the compositions are vehicles for guitar solos. The most you’ll be able to get out of “Sad State of Affairs” is that a cup of coffee doesn’t cost a dime anymore. It’s laughable but he really does make his guitar gently weep on that tune. Grillo’s universe is a six-string instrument and he’s at one with it in “A Different World.”
Carmen Grillo CD cover.
Musician: J. Horne
Album name: Homesick
Why you should listen: J. (Jonathan) Horne gives a strenuous yet fascinating lecture on who he is and where he's from. He’s a Mo City (Missouri City, Texas)-born and Houston-based rapper who studied business at the University of Central Oklahoma. His powerful album “Homesick" was passed along after a performance with Apeks (Alex Schwimmer) at Norman Music Festival VII. It’s the kind of record that will afford dozens of listens because it’s rich with rhymes and thick with thought.
Some tracks such as “Forever N’ Ever” are delivered so fast and furious that they’re breathtaking in intensity. Horne layers the words like a brick layer builds a wall but at warp speed. He’s an educated young dude who is rightly proud of being a business man with both a day job and as a music maker. “For as long as I’m on earth my intent is to be great/ just one day at a time moving at a fast pace/ the last thing I’m going to do is be in last place/ living every single day as if it’s my last race,” Horne intones for “Heaven on Earth.” He makes clever use of melodic samples such as from bossa nova standard “Girl From Ipanema” slinking through “Thoughts.” In the same track Horne takes on American society’s all-mighty dollar with the reminder that Ben Franklin won’t be standing watch at your death bed. Close collaborator Apeks is featured on “Seriously.” It starts with a thumbnail sketch of Horne’s formative life. He learned early to ignore hate, greed and those who root for black men to fail. Fried baloney gets old in a hurry and eating good is one of life’s simple but fundamental pleasures. Strong women working, cooking and disciplining unruly little boys crowd his fond memories of youth. If there’s a single theme running through “Homesick" it’s the significance of strong family ties. Well before Kevin Durant handed over the MVP title to his mother, Horne wrote and included last track “Mama Dearest” on this record.
J. Horne CD cover.