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

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:

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. 

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