Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Reviews:: Jim Bianco *Sing

Say what you will about the whole Hotel Cafe, these friends from LA have really put together a strong collection of song writers. Starting with Cary Brothers, one by one you see this collective showing up on show after show, soundtrack after soundtrack. On the surface, you might assume that most of the members sound exactly the same or are trying to write the same songs, but you'd be wrong.

Case in point; Jim Bianco. Jim's new record - *sing - is a mishmash of styles and influences that include Tom Waits, sexy jazz, Elvis Costello, Soul Coughing, straight ahead pop, spoken word raps, and almost everything in between. While you might think the young singer is biting off more than he can chew, the record has a nice flow and no song seems out of place or forced.

The record opens with the dark, sultry sounds of a jazz club on the other side of town. The aptly titled I Got a Thing For You moves and the speed of a women's hips as she walks across the floor, grabbing every eye in the joint. Jim settles into the role of admirer, and the vibe works perfectly. Many a man have crumbled before a confident women, and Jim's obsession fits into the slinky tune perfectly.

Just as quickly as you've settled into that jazz groove, Jim changes pace and delivers a more straight ahead pop song. The piano and harmonies and vocal slide on the chorus showcase how easily Bianco can fit into the mainstream but the edge of his baritone voice makes this more than just a radio song that floats by your ear unnoticed. He stays with the piano pop on Somebody's Gonna Get Hurt, a song that could be used in just about any TV show or movie. The chorus is addictive and the piano driven melody works.

For me, I like the songs where Jim takes more risks. While he might find some success with songs like the Mat Kearney-esque I Belong To You, he is far more innovative than songs like that allow him to be. Painkiller shows him tipping his cap to Tom Waits - and sounds like it could be a rarity grabbed from Tom's Closing Time years - and it really marks a transition in the record.

Never Again uses a big hammond sound and a bouncing beat behind Jim's word poetry. I hate to call this "whte guy rap" because the vibe of the record is much more beatnik staccato than any attempt to hit the street. The electric guitar and hammond play off each other perfectly and Bianco gives the band time to shine is a classic Jazz club style jam session. It's the perfect shot of energy to pick the record back up and it really revitalizes Bianco.

If Your Mama Knew moves into a very early Soul Coughing/ALO sound, but Jim and his band easily pull it off and make sure the song fits their style. The little bit of playful edge fits his personality and the band still takes the time to flesh out their own thoughts.

This record is a really unique listen, and really showcases the diversity and ambition Bianco has. Interestingly enough, he's got enough on this record to help him find a home with several audiences, so it will be interesting to see which direction he chooses. Here's the single, To Hell With the Devil, which incidentally falls directly in line with the path I hope he follows.

[MP3]:: To Hell With the Devil

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Posted at 11:02 AM by ack :: 1 comments

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At 2:23 AM, Anonymous Anonymous did sayeth:

I have been looking all over the place for his song 'To Hell With the Devil'. Its like no other, and is a must save! Thanks :)


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