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.

Ways to Connect

Scott Hrabko

In his review of Scott Hrabko’s “Biscuits & Gravity,” KCUR music writer David Cantwell praised the Kansas City singer-songwriter's "sly and warm vocals" and the "slinky rhythms and brooding arrangements" documented on the new album. This week's Local Listen features Hrabko’s wistful reverie “I Dreamed I Quit My Job.”

Scott Hrabko & the Rabbits perform at the Westport Saloon on Saturday, Dec. 19.

thecrowdedstage.com

Claire Adams was one of the Kansas City area’s most eclectic musicians even before she began collaborating with the chamber music ensemble Classical Revolution KC. Adams plays bass in the blues-rock band Katy Guillen and the Girls, and is the front person of the ornate folk-pop group, Claire and the Crowded Stage

For its 100th edition, Local Listen features “Enough,” a song that showcases Adams’ new venture with Classical Revolution KC.

The Count Basie Orchestra
A Very Swingin’ Basie Christmas! (Concord Records)

Founded in Kansas City in 1935, the Count Basie Orchestra celebrates its 80th anniversary with the release of its first Christmas album. With delightful assists from guests including the Christmas mainstay Johnny Mathis, the ensemble upholds its reputation as the greatest blues-soaked big band in jazz on the ebullient if stodgy A Very Swingin’ Basie Christmas!

Local Listen: The Roseline

Nov 25, 2015
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Colin Halliburton and a rotating cast of collaborators create earnest folk-rock as The Roseline. The Lawrence-based ensemble released the quietly-defiant album “Townie” in June. This week's edition of Local Listen features “Feckless,” a song that displays The Roseline’s troubled optimism.

The Roseline performs at 8:30 p.m. at the Riot Room on Friday, Nov. 27. 

Local Listen: Ebony Tusks

Nov 18, 2015

The convergence of experimental hip-hop and arty indie-rock often yields compelling music. The Lawrence-based trio Ebony Tusks is one of the region’s most exciting practitioners of the hybrid style. This week's edition of Local Listen features Ebony Tusks’ signature song “Everybody Run.”

Ebony Tusks headlines a free show at the RecordBar at 8 p.m. Sunday, November 22. 

Local Listen: Lauren Anderson

Nov 11, 2015
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Kansas City musician Lauren Anderson has a master’s degree in music therapy, and her gritty new album “Truly Me” is loaded with sonic solace. This week's edition of Local Listen features “One Day,” a brash song that combines Anderson’s love of blues and soul.

Anderson is part of a stellar lineup of blues acts at Knuckleheads on Friday, Nov. 13. The show starts at 6 p.m.

Local Listen: Will Matthews

Nov 4, 2015
americanjazzmuseum.org

As the guitarist of the Count Basie Orchestra, Will Matthews plays swinging Kansas City jazz around the globe. He often performs with an organist and drummer in his hometown when he’s not on the road with the big band. This week's edition of Local Listen features Matthews’ rendition of “Corner Pocket.”

Local Listen: Riala

Oct 28, 2015
Heather Burton / Facebook

Rock fans preferring disorientation to terror will congregate at Californos on Oct. 31. The Halloween party features Kansas City psychedelic rock bands that daze rather than scare. This week's edition of Local Listen features “January” by the atmospheric trio Riala.

The festivities begin at Californos at 8 p.m. Oct. 31. Also on the bill will be After Nations, Temp Tats and Drag Me To Safe Harbour.

Analog Heart Music

David Cook
Digital Vein (Analog Heart Music)

The mania surrounding David Cook was once so frenzied that the audience hardly seemed to notice his most notable opening act — Justin Bieber — at Cricket Wireless Amphitheater in 2009.

Local Listen: Ron Carlson

Oct 21, 2015
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The guitarist and bandleader Ron Carlson has quietly become an integral component of Kansas City jazz scene during the last couple years. Musicians from New York and Kansas City combine their talents on Carlson’s new album “Kind Folk.” This week's Local Listen features the mainstream swing of “Beatrice.”

Carlson performs with pianist Roger Wilder and bassist Bob Bowman at the Art Factory in Overland Park at 8 p.m. Friday, Oct. 23. 

 Howard Iceberg leads an unusual double life. He’s an immigration attorney by day …. and one of Kansas City’s most respected troubadours by night. Local Listen features “You and Your Hazel Eyes,” a song from the singer-songwriter’s new album…. “Smooth Sailing.”

Iceberg and his band the Titanics perform an early show at the RecordBar on Saturday.

Local Listen: Beautiful Bodies

Oct 7, 2015
http://flysouthmusic.com/beautifulbodies

With the band Beautiful Bodies, you wind up watching them as much as listening to them. Alicia Solombrino is a dynamic front-person while Thomas Becker climbs stage scaffolding like a guitar-wielding goat. This week’s Local Listen features “Animal” from the band’s 2015 album “Battles.”

Beautiful Bodies performs at the Fed Up Fest at Crossroads KC on Saturday.

Mark Lowrey is best known as a jazz pianist but he frequently performs in rock, folk and hip-hop settings.

This week's Local Listen features “Milonga For YJ’s,” an Argentinian-inspired track from his album “Tangos For 18th Street.”

Lowrey appears at The Majestic on Thursday, October 1, and at Broadway Kansas City on Friday, October 2.

The Grisly Hand

The Grisly Hand
Flesh & Gold (self-released)

A guitar lick playfully references Bob Dylan’s “Like a Rolling Stone” less than a minute into the opening track of the Grisly Hand’s Flesh & Gold.

It’s the first of several nods to classic rock songs on the Kansas City ensemble’s new album. Yet the six members of the Grisly Hand aren’t mere copycats. Their most potent work equals the hallowed music of their inspirations.

Ernest James Zydeco combines the funky styles of the bandleader’s native Louisiana with the good-time blues and swing of Kansas City. Local Listen features “Tough Times Waltz,” a selection from the band’s new album “Automatic Harvester.”

Ernest James Zydeco performs Friday, September 25, at BB’s Lawnside BBQ and Saturday, September 26, at Llywelyn’s Pub.

Local Listen: Making Movies

Sep 16, 2015

Making Movies, one of Kansas City most notable bands for the past five years, is committed to giving back to the community. The annual family-friendly Carnaval is a fundraiser for Making Movies' after-school music education program.

This week's edition of Local Listen features “Cuna de Vida,” the lead track from Making Movies’ most recent album “A La Deriva.” Making Movies’ Carnaval starts at 5:30 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 19, at Knuckleheads

Local Listen: Second Hand King

Sep 9, 2015

  Joe Stanziola, the Kansas City man behind Second Hand King, doesn’t make run-of-the-mill hip-hop. Elements of doo-wop and an unusually sentimental perspective of love inform his thoughtful music. “The Right Way,” a track from Second Hand King’s new album “Before the Bomb Drops,” is inspired by vintage R&B.

Second Hand King performs on the patio of the Riot Room at 8 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 12.

Local Listen: Shooting Star

Aug 26, 2015

Shooting Star was the most commercially-successful rock band to emerge from Kansas City in the 1980s. International hits like “Tonight” combined progressive rock with radio-friendly pop.

This week's edition of Local Listen features “This Is Our Town,” a hard-charging track from Shooting Star’s new album “Into the Night.”

Shooting Star will open for Boston at Starlight Theatre on Sunday, Aug. 30. 

Local Listen: Samantha Fish

Aug 19, 2015

Samantha Fish’s billing at the Spirit of KC Fest reflects her elite status in Kansas City’s music community. The blues-rock artist headlines over five other noteworthy locally-based acts.

This week's Local Listen features “Highway’s Holding Me Now,” a blistering song from Fish’s new “Wild Heart” album.

The Spirit of KC festival is at Crossroads KC on Saturday, August 22. 

Radkey

Radkey
Dark Black Makeup (Little Man Records)

Glenn Danzig, the rock veteran often characterized as the Evil Elvis, performed in Kansas City last month. The New Jersey native founded the influential horror-punk band the Misfits in the 1970s, but Danzig ceased being cool years ago. Radkey shamelessly recreates Danzig’s sound, but there’s little about this band from St. Joseph that isn’t extremely cool.

Local Listen: Lonnie McFadden

Aug 12, 2015

 

One of the best parties in Kansas City occurs every Friday afternoon at the Phoenix as the vocalist, trumpeter and tap dancer Lonnie McFadden eases celebrants into the weekend.  An old-school entertainer in the tradition of Sammy Davis Jr., McFadden is one of Kansas City’s most beloved personalities.  

This week's Local Listen features McFadden’s jovial invocation “Let’s Party.”

McFadden performs at the Phoenix every Friday from 4:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.

Local Listen: A.J. Gaither

Aug 5, 2015

Anyone with a laptop computer can act as a one-man band in 2015, but A.J. Gaither goes about it the old-fashioned way as he simultaneously howls, flails at a guitar and pounds on drums during his frequent performances in Kansas City’s barrooms.

This week’s Local Listen is Gaither’s typically-unhinged song “Natural Habitat.”  

Gaither performs at the Westport Saloon August 8 at midnight.

  Six accomplished members of Kansas City’s indie-rock scene have joined forces as The Philistines to create what they characterize as “interstellar psychedelic rock 'n roll.”  Twitch of the Death Nerve, the lead single from the band’s forthcoming debut album, is this week’s Local Listen.

The Philistines perform Friday, July 31, at the Tank Room

Jerry Moran / Native Orleanian Fine Photography

Samantha Fish
Wild Heart (Ruf Records)

“Turn it up!”

Samantha Fish’s demand to crank the volume during a song of the same name on her new album “Wild Heart” reflects her general orientation. Although she’s invariably classified as a blues artist, “Wild Heart” reveals that Fish is actually a first-rate rock-and-roller.

Local Listen: Be/Non

Jul 22, 2015
Be/Non / Facebook

Brody Rush has alternately delighted and confounded Kansas City’s rock community for 20 years. As the primary visionary behind his band, Be/Non, Rush has crafted a compelling catalog of psychedelic rock.

This week’s edition of Local Listen features Spark 22, a typically adventurous track from Be/Non’s 2009 concept album “A Mountain of Yeses.”

Local Listen: Jeff Black

Jul 15, 2015
Michael Wilson / jeffblack.com

Singer-songwriter Jeff Black emerged from the same Kansas City open mic scene that produced Iris Dement in the 1990s. The subject of this week’s Local Listen continues to craft sturdy songs from his base in Nashville.

Members of the rock band Wilco accompanied Black on the title track of his 1998 debut album, "Birmingham Road," a gritty song that evokes the industrial thoroughfare in North Kansas City.

Jeff Black performs at Knuckleheads at 8 p.m. on Friday, July 17.

Tech N9ne
“Special Effects” (Strange Music)

Cultural, racial and musical barriers crumbled when the Kansas City rapper Tech N9ne performed for tens of thousands of hard rock fans at Rockfest on May 30.

Local Listen: The AM Trio

Jul 1, 2015
The AM Trio / Facebook

The young pianist, songwriter and bandleader Alyssa Murray is another noteworthy alumnus of Bobby Watson’s Jazz Studies program at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. She and her band, The AM Trio, have a stated mission of "combining jazz with the narrative elements of contemporary folk."

This week’s edition of Local Listen features “In the Evening,” a track from The AM Trio’s new EP “As of Now.”

The AM Trio will perform at 8 p.m. Friday, July 3, at Take Five Coffee + Bar.  The Blue Room will host the ensemble at 7 p.m. Monday, July 6.

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