Bill Brownlee

Music Critic

After spending two decades as a Midwestern sales representative for independent record labels, Bill Brownlee shifted his attention to music and culture criticism in 2006.  His work appears weekly in The Kansas City Star and Ink magazine.  He blogs about Kansas City’s jazz scene at plasticsax.com.

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Danny Clinch Sax and Co.

Madisen Ward and the Mama Bear made a minor international splash in 2015. The mother-and-son folk duo from Independence plays a free outdoor concert at Johnson County Community College on Friday, which gives us an excuse to listen again this week.

3 reasons we're listening to Madisen Ward and the Mama Bear this week:

Courtesy The Rainmakers

Rightfully categorized as a heartland rock band in the vein of John Mellencamp, The Rainmakers are one of the most notable bands to emerge from Kansas City.

They remain local favorites more than 30 years after the group’s formation.

3 reasons we’re listening to The Rainmakers this week:

1. The Rainmakers’ self-titled debut album was released by Mercury Records in 1986. Two tracks, “Downstream” and “Let My People Go-Go,” were minor hits.

Courtesy Indyground Entertainment

Ray Pierce, the man who performs as Steddy P, is the founder of Indyground Entertainment, a miniature version of Tech N9ne’s Strange Music empire. The label has issued music by regional artists including Farout and Dom Chronicles.

3 reasons we're listening to Steddy P this week:

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Rachel Mallin & The Wild Type release their debut EP Degenerate Matters on Friday at the RecordBar.

After establishing a reputation as one of the region’s most significant small rock-oriented venues at its initial location in Westport, RecordBar has moved to a larger, two-tiered space downtown.

3 reasons we're listening to Rachel Mallin & The Wild Type this week:

Rooftop Vigilantes' Bandcamp Page

The Lawrence garage-rock band Rooftop Vigilantes celebrates the release of its new album Let It Be this weekend.

Rooftop Vigilantes is a proudly sloppy band. Every song on Let It Be is shorter than three minutes. It’s possible this penchant for brevity may be rooted in an inability to maintain focus for more than a few minutes at a time.

3 reasons we’re listening to Rooftop Vigilantes this week

Charlie Parker
Unheard Bird: The Unissued Takes (Verve/Universal Music)

Sounding exasperated, someone in the studio production crew sighs “take three” after Charlie Parker’s imperfect version of “Passport,” one of 58 previously unreleased tracks on Unheard Bird: The Unissued Takes.

Courtesy Trampled Under Foot

Following a hiatus of almost two years, the popular Kansas City blues-rock band Trampled Under Foot (named after the song on Led Zeppelin’s 1975 album Physical Graffiti) has reunited. They’re playing Friday, July 15, and Saturday, July 16, at Knuckleheads.

Three reasons we’re listening to Trampled Under Foot this week:

The folk-rock duo Brewer & Shipley, an act with deep ties to Kansas City, is still together more than 40 years after achieving a few international hits. They perform with the Ozark Mountain Daredevils at Crossroads KC on Saturday, July 2.

Three reasons we’re listening to Brewer & Shipley this week:

1. Brewer & Shipley’s relaxed, folk-rock sound is back in style. You can hear echoes of it in the music of young musicians such as Dawes and the Avett Brothers.

Little Hatch, a.k.a. Provine Hatch, Jr., was Kansas City’s premier blues musician during a popular resurgence of the form in the 1990s. Born in Mississippi in 1921, the harmonica player, vocalist and bandleader died in 2003.

Why we're listening to him this week:

The Best Kansas City Music of 2016 ... So Far

Jun 17, 2016

We're only about half way through 2016, but Kansas City artists haven't been wasting any time. That means area music lovers have had plenty to see and hear.

KCUR's Up To Date continues its tradition of reviewing new local music with area music critics. This time, our panel is:

Matt Hopper is a staple of Kansas City’s jazz scene. A leader of his own bands, he's also a valued accompanist for other musicians. Besides the jam session he hosts every Tuesday at The Phoenix, Hopper plays from 5:30-8:30 p.m. at the Green Lady Lounge on Thursday, June 9.

Why we're listening to him this week:

Krizz Kaliko
Go (Strange Music)

Genius, the title of Krizz Kaliko’s 2009 album, wasn’t hyperbole. The visionary Kansas City musician’s contributions have been essential to the remarkable commercial success of his longtime collaborator, Tech N9ne. Kaliko’s new release, Go, his sixth solo album for the locally based Strange Music record label, is another impressive showcase of his luminous talent.

http://americanjazzmuseum.org/

After decades on the scene, Ida McBeth's dusky voice and emotional delivery have reached legendary status in Kansas City. It's not just her soulful combination of blues, jazz and gospel styles that delights audiences, either; she's made a habit of surrounding herself with a band that knows how to really dig into a groove. Go on, we dare you to find someone who has seen McBeth perform and doesn't love her music.

https://iknowdwill.files.wordpress.com

Blk Flanl is what happens when rapper Barrel Maker — that's Morgan Cooper — meets producer Conductor Williams, née Denzel Williams. The two may be familiar, not just to fans of local rap, because they've immersed themselves in the community. Cooper makes his living as a cinematographer, and Williams helped coach track at North Kansas City High School. In Blk Flanl, they tackle contemporary social issues with smart lyrics and bold beats, all served with a healthy dose of soul samples, and jazz- and R&B-inspired horns.

https://www.facebook.com/TheNameIsDuncan/

 A lot of hip hop sounds great on record but can disappoint live audiences, especially if it's just one guy with a microphone rapping over a recorded track. Olathe rapper Duncan Burnett avoids that by performing with a live band, often consisting of the best jazz instrumentalists in the area. Burnett's flows don't shy away from his faith, but calling him a "Christian rapper" would be missing the point.

Music Review: Matt Otto's 'Soliloquy'

Mar 29, 2016
Courtesy of Diallo Javonne French

Matt Otto
"Soliloquy" (Jazz Collective Records)

Matt Otto doesn’t resemble an agent of subversion.  Yet the mild-mannered man has instigated a quiet revolution on Kansas City’s jazz scene since he moved to the area in 2009.

Local Listen: The Conquerors

Mar 23, 2016

The Conquerors, a Kansas City band, has a 1967 flavor that works well in these days of throwback sound. KCUR music reviewer Bill Brownlee feels that after much practice, their performances have vastly improved since their 2010 inception.

The Conquerors perform at The Riot Room on Monday, March 28 at 8 p.m.

 

Blue Springs-based David Cook became a hometown hero when he won the 2008 season of “American Idol.” His latest album features sincere, melodic rock with a familiar feel. This week's Local Listen features "Better Than Me," from Cook's 2015 album, Digital Vein.

David Cook performs Friday, March 18, at the VooDoo at Harrah’s Casino.

http://mariathemexican.com

Maria the Mexican is a roots-rock band fronted by sisters Maria Elena and Tess Cuevas, who combine vocal harmonies as part of the band’s blend of rock and Latin elements.

Maria the Mexican performs Friday, March 11, at the VooDoo at Harrah’s Casino in North Kansas City.

Music Review: Logan Richardson's 'Shift'

Mar 1, 2016
Courtesy Logan Richardson

Logan Richardson
Shift (Blue Note)

The booklet that accompanies Logan Richardson’s monumental new album Shift contains four pages of manga-style graphic art. One panel depicts the saxophonist as a child standing on the corner of 18th & Vine in Kansas City’s Jazz District. He soon encounters Ahmad Alaadeen, an area jazz hero who is shown in the miniature comic book diligently tutoring his promising young disciple.

Local Listen: Fullbloods

Feb 25, 2016
Zach Bauman

The members of Fullbloods weren’t born when soft rock groups like Pablo Cruise were in radio rotation in the 70s, but this Kansas City band revives the smooth sound without a smidgen of irony.

Fullbloods will celebrate the release of "Mild West" with performances at the Brick on Friday, February 26, and at Mills Record Company on Saturday, February 27.

Local Listen: The Greeting Committee

Feb 17, 2016
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This week’s Local Listen zeros in on a recent addition to Kansas City’s music scene, the Greeting Committee. The region’s indie-rock community has welcomed the quartet, and we do the same with a track from their 2015 release “It’s Not All That Bad.” Here is “Hands Down.”

David Basse and Joe Cartwright
Live at Pilgrim Chapel (Lafayette Music)

Live at Pilgrim Chapel, a duet album from two mainstays of Kansas City’s jazz scene, contains 56 minutes of worrisome adventure. While Joe Cartwright is a reliably outstanding pianist, David Basse’s limited vocal range and roguish demeanor add an unsteady edge to the recording.

Local Listen: Organized Crimes

Feb 3, 2016
highdivekc.com

The band name selected by the members of Organized Crimes may recall the nefarious activities that transpired in Kansas City in the first half of the last century, but the group’s music is based on the dreamy alternative rock sound associated with London in the 1980s. Local Listen features “Bel Ray Flats,” the A-side of Organized Crimes’ new seven-inch single.

Local Listen: Hipshot Killer

Jan 20, 2016
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Mike Alexander is an entrenched Kansas Citian, but he expertly evokes the vintage punk sound of Southern California with his trio Hipshot Killer. “They Will Try to Kill Us All,” the powerful new album by Alexander’s band, breathes new life into the no-frills sound associated with groups like Bad Religion. This week's Local Listen features the typically no-frills Hipshot Killer song “One Good Night.”

Jay McShann was occasionally called the “Man From Muskogee,” but Kansas City was the longtime home of the fondly remembered musician who died in 2006. The 100th anniversary of McShann’s birth in Oklahoma will be celebrated Saturday at the Gem Theater. This week's Local Listen features McShann’s 1982 rendition of “Kansas City.”

The Jay McShann Centennial Birthday Bash will be held at the Gem Theater on Saturday January 16th.

Kansas City’s music scene has long been associated with earthy jazz, down-home blues and abrasive guitar-based rock. Yes You Are intends to alter that perception. Local Listen features “Echo,” a glimmering slice of polished pop by the Kansas City quintet.

Yes You Are performs at the Riot Room on Sunday, Jan. 10.

Courtesy Strange Music

Tech N9ne
Strangeulation Vol. II (Strange Music)

Tech N9ne once boasted, on the title track of his 2009 EP “E.B.A.H.,” that he has an “evil brain” and an “angel heart.” Those contradictory extremes have characterized the Kansas City rapper’s extraordinarily successful career, so it’s not surprising that the two albums Tech N9ne released in 2015 may be the best and the worst recordings in his extensive catalog.

Local Listen: Una Walkenhorst

Dec 23, 2015
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Una Walkenhorst is attempting to establish a career in a city in which her father has been a prominent musician for more than 30 years. As a solo artist and as a member of the Rainmakers, Bob Walkenhorst is one of Kansas City’s favorite sons. Local Listen features the title track of his daughter Una’s album “Scars,” a song that indicates that talent runs in the family.

The Best Kansas City Music Of 2015

Dec 18, 2015

It's becoming a year-end tradition at KCUR's Up to Date: Reviewing the year's best work from area musicians.

This year's panelists are:

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