Danny Alexander

Music Critic

Associate editor of the newsletter Rock & Rap Confidential, Danny Alexander is a music journalist based in the Kansas City area. He teaches writing and literature at Johnson County Community College. In spring 2016, University of Texas Press will publish his new book Real Love, No Drama: The Music of Mary J. Blige.

Ways to Connect

Chris Dennis

Chris Meck and the Guilty Birds
It’s 4 A.M.

The power of Chris Meck and the Guilty Birds’ debut comes from several places at once, but is exerted with a devastating focus.

First, there’s the precision of its fine power trio. Calandra Ysquierdo’s prowling, menacing bass and agile backing vocals explode off Michelle Bacon’s relentlessly pounding drums and splashing cymbals. They bolster lead singer Chris Meck’s more fragile bravado and provide ample space for his sharp, clean, ever-reaching guitar.

Madison Crabtree

Chris Crabtree
Counterfeit Heart

Chris Crabtree calls his new album “a soundtrack to the novel Zen and the Art of Killing Yourself.” I haven’t read the book and don’t feel the need to, because this set of songs stands sturdily on its own. In fact, the album’s climactic centerpiece, "At the Time of My Passing," embraces the weighty implications of death and suicide, either real or imagined, with redemptive tenderness and hope.

Courtesy Johnny Hamil

Thanks for Everything (Johnny Hamil/GAV7D)

This extension of Kansas City's Mr. Marco’s V7 is a testament to the wide-ranging brilliance and vision of its bassist Johnny Hamil. Even though Hamil wrote virtually everything here — give or take the improvisation he encourages and the lyrical contributions noted on three cuts — and even though Hamil plays bass, keys or vibes on everything, key to that vision is humility and thankfulness.

Courtesy of Sky Smeed

Sky Smeed
Drive All Night (Sky Smeed Music)

Drive All Night, the fifth album from Sky Smeed of Chanute, Kansas, is a troubadour’s lament to the helplessness everyone feels.

Knowing that Smeed’s core backing band is Lawrence’s wonderfully irreverent Truckstop Honeymoon may prepare listeners for “Smoke N’ Spice,” a tribute to Kansas City barbeque in the form of a personal ad. But that irreverence makes for a deceptive opening, and even the darker “Blue Highways,” about a touring musician beginning to see two-lane blacktops as bars on a jail cell, isn’t likely to prepare anyone for the rest of the record’s quiet desperation.

Courtesy of Victor & Penny

Victor & Penny and their Loose Change Orchestra
"Live at the Living Room Theatre"

Many a young band could learn a thing or two about rocking from the uke, acoustic guitar, clarinet and bass combo featured on this live set.

Jenny Wheat Photography

Mikal Shapiro
The Musical

On her third solo album, Mikal Shapiro essentially divides the songs into two sides. And it's tempting to line up "Act One" and "Act Two" as songs of innocence answered, track for track, by songs of experience.

Danny Clinch Sacks And Co.

Madisen Ward and the Mama Bear
Skeleton Crew (Glassnote)