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Album Review: Natural Child – Dancin’ With Wolves

Natural-Child-In-LAFor the current crop of garage rockers its not 1965 anymore. Many of the bands who have been champions of scenes like the now virtually defunct San Francisco one have moved on from their raunchy roots to embrace a more sonically sophisticated 1969 feeling. Mikal Cronin and Thee Oh Sees have embraced lush string arrangements, The Fresh & Onlys have become a pop band, and Ty Segall’s decision to go acoustic on last year’s “Sleeper” had a tinge of the controversy that Dylan brought by famously deciding to do the opposite. Chances are if you were a lo-fi mainstay in 2009 you’ve upped the fidelity quite a bit by this year. Evidence of this especially rings true with the release of the fourth album by Nashville good ol’ boys Natural Child. On Dancin’ With Wolves the three piece has added two new members, keyboardist Benny Devine, and pedal steel player Luke Schneider, and has produced ten tracks of boozy, groovy, country bliss.

On their earlier releases Natural Child channeled the raw riffs that made their forbears superstars. Their debut album “1971” made no secrets of their influences with song titles like “Let It Bleed” and a stomping blues about an intoxicating lover named “Yoko.” Guitarist Seth Murray, Bass player Wes Traylor, and drummer Zack Martin pounded out southern flavored jams for two more records after that slowly moving out of the garage and into the studio. The two albums released in 2012, For The Love Of The Game and Hard In Heaven, show a band eager to put out music, and whose talent is increasing exponentially. Natural Child’s brand of country rock emphasizes a band with strong roots in the South. The twin lead vocal harmonies of Seth and Wes give the songs a jamboree vibe, and the grooves that the trio root themselves in are simultaneously rocking and rolling.

Dancin’ With Wolves keeps the rock n’ roll freight train choogling along, but is driven mainly by straight up country. Natural Child channels less of the Stones, and more of the likes of Waylon Jennings, JJ Cale, and the Allman Brothers. The album opener “Out In The Country” sits back into a lazy ride on the bayou. Devine’s keys punctuate Murray’s guitar gracefully, and the song feels like a summer evening jam session in a smoke filled houseboat. On the next track the boys remind you that they can kick it up a notch. “Don’t The Time Pass Quickly” showcases their new pedal steel player who hovers over the top of a racing rocker. Other standouts like “Country Hippie Blues” and “Saturday Night Blues” demonstrate the lyrical prowess of the Nashville crew. Natural Child’s stories are timeless, yet current. “Country Hippie” sees the longhairs explaining their pot smoking ways to their more straight-laced Nashville-ites. On “Saturday Night” the group explores the familiar feeling of being stuck at home on the weekend with no cash or prospects.

Most of the tracks on Wolves demonstrate Natural Child’s mastery of stoned down home blues. However, the band shows their range on the jazzy “Bailando Con Lobos.” Complete with Spanish lyrics the boys bounce around on a difficult timing, while the steel guitar whines hauntingly and the organ packs a punch of melody. There are few dull patches in the forty minute album. Unfortunately a brush track is much too heavy in the mix on Tom T. Hall’s “Nashville’s A Groovy Little Town,” the only cover on the record, to distract from an otherwise fun jangly tune. At other times when only one member steps up to the mic the sound loses some of it’s fullness; like on “Rounder.”

On the whole Natural Child’s Dancin’ With Wolves shows a mature and talented group of young musicians, who like their peers have had faith in their fans to be able handle more than just 1-2-3-4. Garage bands, given time, have always evolved into more, and with Natural Child Nashville rock n’ roll is in capable hands.

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Updates from the RPM Department

Greetings, KZSCers!

There’s a lot going on in the RPM department right now. We’ve been flooded with so many great releases in the past few weeks that some may have flown under your radar. Here’s a roundup of best releases has received as of late:

Tensnake – Glow: Ranging from house to disco and taking sonic queues from the likes of Disclosure and Daft Punk (even going so far as to feature Nile Rogers on a track!), Tensnake delivers 16 tracks of hip-shaking goodness for your worthy ears. I am sure it will be throughly rinsed out on KZSC’s electronic shows.

Patten – Estoile Naiant: On the more experimental, ambient side of the electronic palette, Patten has created a lush maze of sound to sink into. Using elements of drone, techno, drum and bass, and found sounds, Patten creates a deep sonic universe in which you can easily immerse yourself in.

Thomas White – Ariose EP: Built for the club, Thomas White’s Ariose EP turns up by combining trapped-out percussion and hard-hitting bass with smooth chords and range of unique samples. This is absolutely one to play loud!

I also thought I’d include one last one from up-and-coming 17-year-old producer Dolphin Tears; some classic Jersey Club:

Considered your itch for new music scratched, KZSCer’s! Until next time!

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Hugh Masekela March 24th

Top 40 radio played the instrumental “Grazing in the Grass” to death in 1968. Many adventurous music fans got to see South African trumpeter Hugh Masekela the year before right here. Masekela and his band were featured performers at the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967. He also provided the trumpet solo for The Byrds’ “So You Want To Be A Rock & Roll Star”. Fast forward to an incredibly diverse career – helping to free Nelson Mandela, joining Paul Simon on the breakthrough world music of “Graceland”, working on the Broadway musical “Sarafina”, writing his biography – and you begin to see what a treasure Hugh Masekela has been to the world of music and South African culture. Join his 75th Birthday Celebration at the intimate Kuumbwa Jazz Center in Santa Cruz Monday, March 24th. Showtimes are 7 and 9 pm; best get tickets in advance for this birthday party.

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Tycho March 19th

Scott Hansen, also known as synth ambient electronic music producer Tycho, has just released his second LP.  Once strictly a solo project, Tycho has now evolved into a three-piece band providing plenty of energy and euphoria at their live shows. Their debut performance in Santa Cruz will take place at The Catalyst on March 19th. Showtime is 9 pm…or so.

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Pour House St. Patrick’s Day

How can you go wrong with a name like “Pour House” on today’s holiday? They will cap off your St. Patrick’s Day with a variety of Irish songs, jigs and sing-alongs, adding a fresh twist to tunes from Irish artists like Van Morrison, The Pogues, Waterboys and others tonight at special Crepe Place gig. The revery may begin sooner, but the pour from Pour House will start around 9 pm.

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Programmer of the Month: Luisa Cardoza

Screen Shot 2014-03-10 at 7.26.18 PMIn January 2004, Luisa Cardoza (aka DJ LC) started spinning music on The Great 88. Screen Shot 2014-03-10 at 7.23.38 PMIt all started when she enrolled in our broadcast class while working at the UCSC Ticket Office.  Luisa loved our Friday afternoon “Not So Distant Relatives” program so when host DJ Abel graduated, she and DJ Soul Patch (Ben Kutcher) took over.  LC also did a great job as part of the longest running women’s radio collective  in the world, Breakfast in Bed (Sundays 9-noon) and subbing on “Jazz Kitty” (Saturdays, noon-2). Luisa has recently moved to San Francisco, where she’s hosting the show “Tapestries” on KCSF Radio every Wednesday as part of SF City College’s Broadcast Media program. The station streams live via TuneInRadio with programs also archived on Mixcloud.com. Even though LC is now on a different spot on the dial, she’ll always be a loyal fan of where she got her radio start, KZSC.