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Skunkmello: Stars & Stripes

Music Reviews by Stephen L. Robbins

Stars & Stripes
Review by: Stephen L. Robbins

I have a litle quiz for you. Actually, it's for both you and me because I have the overwhelming urge to express my profound puzzlement. It's kind of like when you need to talk something out in order to get it straight in your head.

Question: What do you call a middle-aged man who is sitting at his desk, headphones on, mouth agape in wonderment?

Answer: Stephen Robbins. I am absolutely awed by what I'm hearing. It's amazing.

Question: What do you call a middle-aged man who is dazed and confused by what he is hearing?

Answer: Stephen Robbins. How can three young men play so well, with such musical maturity, that they smoke many musicians twice their age? I have decades of practice on the men of Skunkmello, and I consider myself to be a decent musician, but Jono, Matt and Ed put me to shame. And Skunkmello makes the bands I've been in sound like a bunch of amateurs.

Based in New York City, this rock and blues band is the real deal. Their first full-length album, Stars & Stripes, is set to be released on September 16, 2014. It's a definite must-have and is sure to become a hit with rock and blues fans.

There's an expression we sometimes use here to denote an outstanding band and/or album: E = Fb. It's the Musicians Theory of Relativity. I think it should be adopted by the music industry as an award for excellence. I also think it should be pinned on Jono, Matt and Ed for their outstanding work on Stars & Stripes.

Meet Skunkmello (pictured left-right):
Jono Ori: drums, percussion, vocals
Matt Bartlett: lead vocals, guitar, slide guitar, electric dobro, harmonica, mandolin
Ed Cuervo: bass, percussion, vocals

Additional musicians on Stars & Stripes:
Dan Spencer: keyboards, percussion, vocals
Bridget Ori: additional vocals on #12
Marcus Harris: additional vocals on #9
Juan Robels-Gil Aleman: saxophone on #7

Stars & Stripes features fourteen tracks, nearly one hour, of rock and blues listening pleasure. As has become our custom, I've picked a few tracks on which to go into detail. These tracks were randomly chosen. As is also our custom, we don't review albums with B-Side type tracks. Every cut on Stars & Stripes is absolutely top quality.

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Stars & Stripes - Lively, high-spirited, "Proud to be an American" feel leaps from the title track. Stars & Stripes opens with a massive chord that signals something ominous and exciting is about to happen, and happen it does, "Budweiser Red, Camel Blue. And in my head tonight I know that rowdy white will be here, too. I�ve heard it said, behind the flag a mighty nation grew." You can feel Skunkmello's pride in who they are and the country in which they live. I mentioned it before, but it bears repeating - Skunkmello are remarkably gifted musicians and their talent shines brightly in this great song. By the time Stars & Stripes has reached it's end, you'll want to stick out your chest, hold your head high and shout, "I'm an American and damn proud of it."

Chocolate Milk - Very cool boogie woogie rock 'n' roll toe-tapper. Warning: Chocolate Milk may take control of your mind. Have you ever heard of subliminal cuts? They're something that supposedly influences your actions without you being aware of them. For example, let's say you're sitting in a theater watching a movie and every so often a frame within the film shows an Oreo being dipped in a glass of chocolate milk. You don't notice that particular frame, but for some strange reason you get the urge to go to the concession stand for Oreos and chocolate milk. Stay with me now. The lyrics in this song have some pretty hot stuff, "So if you got the appetite, I got a friend sure to delight. A dancing beauty in the night. She�s sure to get you feeling right." A little later I heard, "I want my Oreos dipped in chocolate milk." Interestingly, when Chocolate Milk had finished playing, I was in the mood for Oreos dipped in chocolate milk. I'll grant you that the lyrics, "I want my Oreos dipped in chocolate milk" are longer than a subliminal cut. However, you'd think that I would have had the urge to spend time with a dancing beauty who's willing to get me feeling right rather than spend time dipping Oreos in chocolate milk. There has been much debate about whether or not subliminal cuts actually work. I don't know if they work or not, but subliminal lyrics certainly do.

Bad Morning Blues - Terrific blues number with stellar harmonica playing. "I gotta toilet bowl. I gotta toilet bowl. Gone and sold my soul down the toilet bowl, down the toilet bowl." As much as I hate to admit it, I've been there, done that. "What�d it do down there? What�s it do down there? What�d it do down there, in the Devil�s lair, what�d it do down there?" Excellent questions, all of them. I have no idea what it did down there, but whatever it was, something tells me it wasn't good. "Well it came back up. Yeah, it came back up. Fucked me up, my mind corrupt, when it came back up." Like I said, been there, done that. I hit the bars, spent a bundle on booze, got drunk and made a fool of myself, only to throw it all up. And what do I have to show for it? A splitting headache and a nauseous gut. That's it. That's the last time. No more for me ... until next Friday night.

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I've become a big fan of Skunkmello. They are extremely blessed with skill. I can't help but wonder what the next five years has in store for them. There's no doubt they have the ability to go as far as they want in the music world. My only question is how far do they want to go? Stars & Stripes is indicative that these are fully matured musicians hip to today�s listening tastes who can, and will, bring it all home at the crossroads.

Skunkmello: Stars & Stripes

01)��Stars & Stripes Skunkmello 4:12
02)��Backseat Gypsy Skunkmello 4:17
03)��Easy Come, Easy Go Skunkmello 5:17
04)��Half Windsor Blues Skunkmello 4:05
05)��Disco Cruiser Skunkmello 3:07
06)��The Lament of August West Skunkmello 2:15
07)��Gravity Skunkmello 4:52
08)��Solicitation Blues Skunkmello 4:19
09)��Chocolate Milk Skunkmello 2:54
10)��Mad Dog Skunkmello 4:19
11)��Bad Morning Blues Skunkmello 1:44
12)��Heavy Heavy Skunkmello 4:44
13)��That One From Before Skunkmello 3:43
14)��Suds Skunkmello 4:22

Release date 16 September 2014

Arranged and recorded by Skunkmello
Produced, engineered, and mixed by Ed Cuervo
Mastered by Clifford Lane
Art direction and photography by Jono Ori
Tracking at Big Blue Studios except #1, #2, #5, and #8 by Hansdale Hsu at Serious Business Music

All songs and images 2014 Skunkmello and 2014 Skunkmello LLC


Review by: Stephen L. Robbins

� Stephen L. Robbins 2014
All Rights Reserved

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