Wassup with Valley musicians
If you've been waiting for someone to have that Reese's Peanut Butter Cup accident that ends with, "Hey, you got electronica in my rock and rap," look no further than Cross Platform, five great tastes that might taste great together. Dubbed "an experiment in rap, funk, rock, soul & electronic," it's largely sprung from the musical mind of Atlanta transplant Dirty Red and the lyrical touch of Phoenix MC Blaze Rock. This something-to-please-everybody approach rarely ever works on action-movie soundtracks, so it should come as no surprise that the best moments happen every other song -- usually when the rock and rap are backed into a corner and Red and Rock come out swinging. The two agitated men sound like they've got genuine beefs on "Can I Get a Witness" and "Bruises," and come together more peaceably on the more traditional rock sounds of "Can't Tell You Why," which could've been sanctioned by the Black Rock Coalition. Guess that means half the time we're left with subdued philosophical raps like "Cross Platform (Interlude)," where guests Creepz and J-Luv sound stuck for ideas ("Even stop signs can't stop the blind or rock the mike" and "Stop signs I refuse to let 'em stop me" come within a minute of each other). Some of the electronica stuff is only periodically absorbing ("Awaken" adds dialogue from the film Shadow of the Vampire), and if the sum result of all this cross-platforming doesn't hang together, it's a noble enough case study. (www.itscrossplatform.com)
Eric Holland sounds a lot like Gordon Lightfoot making his way through the Marty Robbins songbook. But instead of trail songs, Holland sings border songs -- about crossing borders illegally in vans to work farms without a green card, and hoping for a better life. On "Devil's Highway," he hotfoots across the desert with no food and little water, and gets reassurance when "My mirage became my mother staring back at me." As an added incentive to buy this masterful story-song bonanza, 25 percent of his Without Borders CD sales go to Border Reform organizations in southern Arizona. (www.EricHollandAZ.com)
Speaking of Borders, the acoustic Tempe trio Carden has played at the Chandler book and music seller and at the Sail Inn. Singer-songwriter and former Virginian Adam Gerow writes like David Gray, and slips into an occasional falsetto like Parachutes-era Coldplay. Within seconds on the first track of Carden's self-titled debut, Gerow's hooked us with his losing mission of trying to get the happy nothingness of his dreams to resonate in his empty life. Realizing he's wasted all his time on music and girls, he decides "I'm going home to burn everything I own in this world and move to an island." This Christmas, give the gift of a gifted band that keeps on giving. (www.cardenmusic.com)
If there's a verbal speed record, Power 92 Free Style Champion Ol' Green Eyes has already broken it. Spitting out words faster than you can process them, you're left dazed, like you know he just rhymed something with Quentin Tarantino but you don't know what it is. From what I can make out, he's perfected a style of rap that takes the repeating rubbery lips of Fat Albert's Mushmouth and double-dribbles syllables to give them extra rhythm, like slapback echo. His real name is Benjamin Harris, but he calls himself Ol' Green because "Y'all green with envy, yeahyerrrr!" On The Ol' Green EP, he celebrates turning 21 ("I can get drunk now wherever I want now!") and sounds a bit more definite about the natural order of things than Alice Cooper was when he turned 18 ("Fuck the world I'm taking over the whole planet"). At 22, he'll be frighteningly unstoppable. (www.olgreeneyes.com)
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