Wayne Bledsoe: Knoxville rock acts reign with a raft of new releases

Westside Daredevils

Westside Daredevils

I’ve fallen woefully behind on new album reviews. Here are several that you should check out.

“Westside Daredevils,” Westside Daredevils (www.westsidedaredevils.bandcamp.com)

For the Westside Daredevils’ final trick the group releases a final album before going on indefinite hiatus and make lovers of power pop simultaneously celebrate a great new album and mourn the loss of one of Knoxville’s most criminally overlooked rock bands.

Maybe it’s best to focus on the positive. The group’s fourth full-length album sparkles. When the group blends vocals on top of the breezy sounding instrumental work for “When It Rains” it’s pure bliss. The sweetness of the band’s delivery regularly masks bitter lyrics. The singer of “Scars” tells his lover that maybe things are just not going to work out (“... This fade to black has been going on for half the movie ...”). The driving “Far Worse Fates” happily informs the privileged are equal with the have-nots in death: “Welcome to the club with the (expletive) rest of us!” And, just the title of “This Slow Wrist Slicing” tells you all you need to know except that it’s an upbeat sounding joy to hear. But then, all 10 tracks of “Westside Daredevils” are welcome.

All of the band’s music in its 13-year-run is available for free at www.westsidedaredevils.bandcamp.com.

It’s easy to check it out yourself.

“Songs On a Stick,” Todd Steed & Owen Davis (Apeville@comcast.net)

When old friends Todd Steed and Owen Davis spent a few weeks in Beijing, China, they decided to chronicle the time in song. Of course, Owen, front man for the Morgantown, W. Va.,-based Gene Pool, and Steed, leader of the Knoxville-based Suns of Phere and a list of other local infamous acts, are not the sort to produce your typical travelogue. Through the disc’s nine tracks, Steed and Owen examine the joys and (mostly) failings of the infamous Chinese intoxicant “Pineapple Beer” (it’s sing-along worthy) and problems “Regarding Eggs and Aeroplanes” and profiles a new friend “Ni Hao Thomas Yao.”

Through the years, Steed has become a master of creating songs that are funny but also deliver some serious punches. Teamed with Owen, Steed stays in a lighter mode. “23rd Building Psalm,” the disc’s closer, is a straight-forward picture of life in the dorm where Steed lived.

“Songs on a Stick” is not the National Geographic version of the city. It’s the regular-guy-tells-you-how-it-really-was version. Steed and Owen make it easy to feel like you’re just another buddy listening to them tell the tale. It’s a simple pleasure if ever there was one.

“The Turnaround,” The Reigns Band (evanmelgaard@yahoo.com)

I’m surprised that more people don’t know about The Reigns Band. This Knoxville trio cranks out old-fashioned blue-eyed soul mixed with happy pop that’s easy to love. Lead singer/guitarist Evan Melgaard lends his gruff and soulful vocals and funky guitar work to rhythm bed laid down by drummer Nick Randles and keyboardist/bassist Adrian Lajas.

The band sounds like they’re having a blast. The opening track, “Luckiest Guy” is bouncy fun and the Beatle-ish follow-up, “Living With My Girlfriend” is loaded with funny lines about a less-than-perfect romance that will hit home with a lot of couples. The electricity is tempered with some fine acoustic moments, notably, “Turn Around.” Then there’s a bizarre final track of a phone call from a guy who you probably wouldn’t want to spend a few hours with.

With the right producer to help polish up some rough edges, The Reigns Band could be a band that everyone hears about.

“Ouroboros and the Black Dove,” Hudson K (www.hudsonkmusic.com)

Although the core of Hudson K has remained the same, vocalist/keyboardist Christina Horn and percussionist Nate Barrett, the has undergone some massive sonic changes.

The act has moved from a more piano-based sound to something more electronic and it’s opened the group up.

The stand-out numbers on the band’s new album “Ourboros and the Black Dove” are those that stress synthesizers and organic beats.

Just as important, while the sound is rich and complex, the act’s new songs, including “Crush,” “Paper Cut” and “Stuck on Repeat,” go for lyrical simplicity.

That’s a plus, because, previously, Horn could sometimes became so wordy that she’d lose you.

Here Hudson K sounds radio-friendly.

“Ourboros” is easily the act’s best disc yet and the one that should introduce you to some fine artists.

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