Mexico, Monterrey, New Music, Rock Music, Rock'n'Roll, Uncategorized, Villarreal Sisters

Finding Inspiration: A Review of Rock’s Latest Power Trio – The Warning

Remember when Heart was a novelty because they had sisters as the lead singer and the lead guitarist? Remember The Runaways featuring Joan Jet? What about The Go-Go’s, The Bangles, The Ronettes, or The Supremes? You didn’t know there were that many female bands in the classic rock period 60’s, 70’s, and Early 80’s? Don’t feel alone. It was a rarity to be sure. The industry seemed determined to package the Rock’n’Roll lifestyle embodied in male vocals often singing in falsetto with males playing the guitar, bass, drums, and keyboards. There were some exceptions like Fleetwood Mac or the Talking Heads, where women played keyboards or bass guitar while also singing, but it was far from the norm.

The music industry has changed a lot since then. I was about to say it’s evolved, but in many ways, it’s devolved into its current state of overhyped, autotuned, commercial tripe. Supposedly, Rock died around 1996. At least that’s when I first heard someone proclaim that. At the time, I thought it was an uninformed opinion. You see, Rock music has always been rebellious and at least initially counter-cultural, distinct from the mainstream, even when it dominated the music charts and was considered the principal money-making vehicle for the industry. I believed it was wishful thinking on the part of tone-deaf executives looking to create a factory system to churn out cookie-cutter pop stars that they could exploit while ever cashing in on the latest trend. But then came Napster and later on Ipods. Music became more portable than just a CD or cassette player you could walk around with while you rocked out to tunes pouring into your ears through earbuds. It could be digitally converted into a compressed format suitable for sending and receiving over the Internet and storing en masse on a disc drive for easy playback.

I think a certain branch of Rock music actually did die around 1996. It was the sort that was heavily rooted in the Blues, the sort of stuff that Clapton and Page played, the kind of music that continued to live through Stevie Ray Vaughn until his untimely death, yet hangs on even now because it is essential and evokes a visceral response. Much to the detriment of the overall Rock genre and its many splintered sub-genres going off in different directions, along unusual tangents, its soul was anchored in the past to The Blues to which the up and coming artists rarely paid homage. Modern Rock became abstract, disjointed, and disconnected from the gut-punching emotion that has driven it from the mid-fifties until the nineties. Continuing forward as a viable medium depended on adopting some of the very things that were killing it.

Meanwhile, the Grammies began snubbing Rock bands, pushing their awards into the lower tiers of importance, not even worth a mention on the awards broadcast. Oh well, it had been a while since anyone in Rock took those awards seriously anyway, perhaps since Jethro Tull was picked as the best Heavy Metal band over Metallica, much to the surprise of anyone who followed either group and the chagrin of both bands. And being a Rocker from way back, I frankly never gave a crap about the Grammies. Only occasionally did they ever get things right in my estimation, about as often as the proverbial blind squirrel finds the elusive acorn. As proof, how many bands currently enshrined in the Rock’n’Roll Hall of Fame never won a Grammy? But then again, The Hall of Fame’s credibility is often suspect as well. They seem notoriously slow to honor some of the greatest bands of all time.

I mention all this because long ago I sold my collection of vinyl albums. It was cumbersome to transport and I had entered a period of nomadic existence, exploring the world. Now, I pay monthly for the immediacy and portability of Spotify because I can take it anywhere, even if I only listen to it whenever I’m writing or editing. As important as music has always been to me, things have changed so radically over the past twenty-five or so years that very little about the current environment excites me. Certainly, there are some talented bands that stand out as exceptions, but you have to dig through the multiple layers of superficial crap on top to get to them because I’m convinced, the music industry does not want to give you and me anything truly fresh and original. They want to keep regurgitating the same tired tropes in the same mundane genres that already pollute the commercial airwaves of our corporately controlled world.

But then a band came along, a new power trio that serves as an inspiration, countering the prevailing narrative, bucking the system, maintaining artistic integrity, and all of a sudden it feels like there is a chance for a resurrection of Rock, performed the way it should be, the way it should have always been. They connect with their fans directly via social media on a regular basis and members of their ‘army’ have traveled from as far away as Europe, South America, Canada, Australia, and from all across the US to attend their live shows. And maybe – just maybe – you, too, are about to be warned.

The Warning: Alejandra (left), Paulina (center), Daniela (right).

A few months ago I discovered (or rather rediscovered) The Warning, the trio of Villarreal sisters from Monterrey, Mexico. The band is bi-lingual, singing most of their songs in English. Daniela (Dany), the eldest at 21, plays the lead guitar and sings lead on most of their songs. Paulina (Pau), at 19, pounds the drumkit and sings backing vocals except for several times when she takes over the lead. Alejandra (Ale), at 17, is the youngest but curiously the tallest of the three, though she claims she is also short. She plucks and slaps the bass while she also sings background vocals. All three play piano, having taken lessons from an early age. In fact, all three compose their original music on the same piano in their home where they learned. Some of their songs utilize the keyboard and when performed live, one or another of the trio switches from their primary role.

Like a lot of people, I first heard of The Warning in 2015 when they appeared on The Ellen DeGeneres Show. At the time they were a curiosity – a novelty of some note, mind you – because they were so young (Ale was 9 at the time) and yet already so professional. Their schtick was doing competent covers of metal songs like Metallica’s “Enter Sandman”, Guns and Roses’ “Sweet Child of Mine”, and AC/DC’s “Back in Black”. But the fact that they could play real instruments with such a high level of skill should have served as my warning to keep a closer eye on their further development. You see, they took advantage of every opportunity beginning with a YouTube video gone viral. They leveraged the flash-in-the-pan fame of millions of views to launch a Kickstarter to fund their first recording sessions and live performances. And with the help of Ellen granting them a summer course at the Berklee College of Music in Boston, they were primed to focus on a career as professional songwriters and musicians.

Seven years, two EP’s, and two albums later, they have become an inspiration to a lot of young girls who dream of one day following in their footsteps to become rock stars, or at least learning how to play an instrument or two and experience the beauty of creating music. And it’s about time for that to become the norm in music. The sisters have crafted a system for maintaining control over their art, having released all but their most recent EP with only the organic funding from their fan base’s purchases of their albums, clothing items, and swag on their website as well as the loyal support of their followers on Patreon. And over the past few years, they have opened for such legendary acts as Aerosmith, Def Leppard, and Alice Cooper and plan to open for The Foo Fighters for a show on their upcoming tour.

In August of 2020, following lengthy negotiations spanning several months, The Warning signed a contract with Lava/Republic Records to produce the first of five albums for the label with multi-platinum award-winning producer David Bendeth while the band retained an almost unprecedented level of control over the process. Now, along with a growing handful of youthful bands, The Warning is already at the vanguard of Rock’s resurrection.

Their debut EP with Lava/Republic, titled “Mayday”, which was released on October 8, 2021, features six original songs. I’ve heard that its release resulted from a compromise with the label that wanted to delay the release of a full album due to current market conditions caused by the resurgence of the pandemic. The band had already begun launching and promoting singles since May of 2021 in anticipation of a tour, and they wanted to maintain the momentum they’d already achieved from the popular songs and music videos that had created a buzz throughout their growing fanbase, including a number of reaction channels on YouTube.

The EP’s first track, “Disciple” is a driving rocker warning us about our dependence on social media and the influence of those wanting to control us. “Choke” is about the feeling of being stifled and dominated by others. “Animosity” is a rage song that is ostensibly about breaking up with someone but written in such a way as to be construed in a number of other ways. “Z” is about being born into the world of Generation ‘Z’. “Evolve” is about overcoming expectations to become yourself. And “Martirio”, the final cut on the EP and the only one sung in Spanish, is about Martyrdom where some live a life dedicated only to the sacrifice of self. Additional material is expected later this year as either another EP or a full album comprising the original songs along with the previously unreleased material. I don’t know which is the official plan as I’ve heard rumors of both.

The Warning was also slated to begin a North American tour back in 2020 which was first delayed but then canceled due to the spread of Covid. A new tour was scheduled to begin this month but has also been delayed due to the surge of cases. Expect new dates to be announced for later this year when, hopefully, things get back to normal and we can all enjoy live music performances again. But until then we have “Mayday” and the back catalog of their first EP, “Escape the Mind”, and their two albums, “XXI Century Blood” and “Queen of the Murder Scene”, along with solo single releases of “Narcisista”, their first single performed in Spanish which serves as a response to those who complained about them singing only in English, and “Enter Sandman” (featuring Alessia Cara), a track from “Metallica Blacklist”, a Thirtieth Anniversary tribute to the Black album’s release comprising covers performed by over fifty artists.

The Warning Band’s website

Blog, Books, Editing, Environment, Fantasy, Future, music, novel, Publishing, Rock Music, Science Fiction, Space, Technology, Urban Fantasy, Word, Writing

The Resurrection: Chapter 30 – Never Except For Always

**Note: Although the following is part of a previously self-published eBook, portions have been modified. However, it has not been professionally edited and likely contains typos and other errors. It is offered as an example of raw science fiction storytelling.**

By the time the local sun disappeared behind the skyline of Haven, one of the two moons was already visible just cresting the eastern horizon. Paul stared at the large beach combing machines the Sakum’malien drivers staged at the edge of the dunes awaiting the departure of all the human sun worshipers. Perhaps they wondered at the odd human behavior, but they said little if anything to anyone – even those who spoke some words of English.

The odd feeling of having forgotten something returned, taunting him with information he could not grasp to recall. Again, he sensed a presence but there was no one immediately around except for Chase, Julie and Clare.

“Come on,” Clare prompted. Paul turned and hurried along as the four of them were among the last to leave the beach and rinse off in the beach house before getting dressed into more proper attire for dealing with the big city life.

Julie and Clare hugged one another and said their goodbyes as Chase and Paul retrieved their coaches from the docking station. When they arrived queued behind one another, Julie hugged Paul and Clare hugged Chase. They two men shook hands. It was a nice late afternoon get together they shared.

Chase was always traveling, mainly between his company’s office in Andromeda and Haven where he worked. Paul worked from dawn to dusk daily, sometimes even going in to work for a few hours on weekends just to catch up. He sometimes worked every single day within a month just to finish a project.

Clare climbed into the floater coach and Paul entered after her, settling in at the controls of the console. He waited for Chase and Julie to get settled and pull away from the boarding curb before he pulled out of the parking area and onto the street. “You aren’t in any trouble leaving work early?” Clare asked.

Paul shrugged, “What if I am? I’ve been working there for five years. I receive minimal raises in reward for always finishing my work on time or ahead of schedule and being at work at least on time but usually early and always staying late when necessary.”

“You don’t want to lose your job.”

“Of course not but I don’t think they even know I exist. No one knows who I am but if I was missing for a while they might finally appreciate what ol’-what’s-his-name takes care of for them.”

“Maybe others would take up the slack and they’d never notice.”

Paul nodded. “Yeah, well that puts the onus back onto me, now, doesn’t it?”

After a long pause Clare cleared her throat, “What was it Chase and you went off to yourselves to discuss?”

“Were you and Julie jealous of phantoms and some imagined competition?”

Clare forced a smile but her eyes did not leave his.

“Chase knows a guy he met a while back named Pete. When I was out in New Milan with Chase last fall we both met him and I beat him at shooting pool.”

“He must be awful at it, then.”

“Thanks a lot!” Paul exclaimed even as he shook his head in disbelief.

“I’m, just being honest, hon,” she said. “My baby brother beat you when we went to visit my folks last year.”

“Yeah, that little scoundrel’s a hustler, though,” Paul countered, after receiving a wave of impressions and perceptions the memories cascaded into his mind, filling in many missing pieces of an established past that stretched back well before he stepped out of the ocean water onto the beach.

Everything was there, meeting Pete in New Milan, accompanying Chase to Andromeda on a detour while on their way home. Chase signed a band and then they returned to Haven. Paul never told Clare he and Chase detoured through Andromeda. It took them three extra travel days but Clare always believed he stayed in New Milan for an extra meeting. It wasn’t like they did anything wrong, but it was just he never bothered to tell her where all they went.

As Paul pulled the coach up to the curb of their apartment building, he pressed the button commanding the door to open and as soon as the coach stopped, Clare stepped out onto the curb and waited for Paul to do the same and dock the coach before he joined her. They both entered the building and stood in the lobby waiting for the elevator car to arrive.

“So, that was the big secret Chase had to talk to you about, this guy Pete?”

“Yeah, it was part of it. Pete’s in a band and they’re looking for a female lead singer.”

“So, of course he thought of Cristina.”

“Yep.” The elevator arrived and they both boarded. Paul pressed the button for their floor.

“I could see her doing it.”

“I could too,” Paul said. “I was waiting about calling her, seeing if she’d call first. I guess I have an excuse, now.”

“You miss Cristina, don’t you?”

“I do,” Paul confessed. Even though he felt as if he had been with her recently.

“It’s been a year a least since she left for school.”

“Closer to two years,” Paul said as he tried to pin down an exact time or event associated with it. “I mean we talk by phone or even exchange messages over the global network but we’ve not been together for a long time. The conversations we’ve had were mostly about her acting and how successful I am. I don’t know where she gets it from but somehow she thinks I’m successful.”

“Aren’t you?” The elevator arrived at their floor and they stepped out. Their apartment was just down the hall, the third door on the right.

“Maybe on a comparative basis. I have steady income. She doesn’t. That’s not how I would define success, though.”

“The material element is a consideration.” She arrived at the door two or three steps ahead of Paul, keyed in her security code and leaned against the door as it unlocked and opened. She held the door open for him as he arrived.

“I suppose what I make is a lot or most people.”

“Well, I think you’re successful.”

“I’m happy – not with work but the rest of my life’s great.” He wrapped his arms around her waist from behind and kissed her neck.

“I love you unconditionally.” She reached up with both hands and grabbed his head, then turning she releases and kissed him passionately. 

“I don’t know what I would do without you,” Paul said as their lips parted. “It’s just I’m not quite what I wanted to be and whenever Cristina sends me a message it reminds me because she’s the one who’s still faithful to her dream. I guess it makes me feel like I’ve given up and maybe sold myself short, just accepting what I can get paid to do.”

“Cristina reminds you of whatever it is that you perceive as your failures. But you’re successful at what you do.”

“I know. I know exactly what you’re going to say. I’m far from being a failure but failure lurks just past the next decision at my company. I’ve never felt like I have any sort of job security. Backstabbing assholes and highly political opportunists surround me. I have a knot in the pit of my stomach every day when I go into the office. I feel like they’re going to fire me, not just threaten it, but follow through with it. I’m not sure that enduring all of that is worth the pay credits.”

“You just take things way too seriously.”

“Maybe that’s part of it, but most of it is I work for self-serving pricks.”

“Everything in life is about perspective,” Clare said.

“And I lack perspective – is that what you’re saying?”

“I was going to say maybe Cristina is more mature than you are. You always say she handles rejection well. Yet you cannot seem to define your success. You have a good paying job. Some people would call it a dream position.”

“My job is anything but a dream position,” Paul said, flipping around a dining room chair backwards and sitting with his chest resting against the chair back.

“Nothing is easy, Paul. Is there any job anywhere that will pay you what you think your time is worth?”

Paul smiled. “Of course not. With the difficulty of the job comes the compensation.”

“Not always commensurate to the demands of the job…”

“But high enough that some damned fool, like me will attempt the job because it pays better than the last three things I tried.”

“Exactly,” she said. “So what do you want for dinner.”

“Let’s shower and get fixed-up and go out for dinner and some dancing.”

“Really? What’s gotten into you tonight? The beach didn’t wear you out?”

“Yeah a little, but I want to make it a memorable day for you.”

“It already is. “

“Then let’s work on the night part of it.”

“Okay,” she smiled broadly.

“I really need to take a proper shower and put on some lotion,” she said. “I’m sure you do too, you always burn so easily.”

“I wore enough sunscreen I think. I’ll call for reservations. Where do you want to east?”

“Surprise me,” Clare said as she headed toward the bathroom.

“I’m not sure you really want me to do that,” he called out after her.

“It’ll be fine,” she called back.

“Okay. But don’t say I didn’t warn you,” Paul said as he flicked on world viewer and brought up the index for local restaurants. “I think it’s always a good night for Italian.” He said to himself.

After calling for reservations, Paul began watching the news. By the time he heard her shower end he was ready and waiting to take his turn, tired of the dryness on his skin and the overall smell of fish.

When she emerged from the bathroom Clare headed to the bedroom to apply her makeup and get dressed. Paul showered quickly and joined her in the bedroom where he dressed accordingly, in casual attire appropriate for the restaurant to which they were going.

“Are we in a rush?” she asked while putting on her eyeliner.

“No, I made the reservations for eight thirty. Take your time.

“This is a nice surprise. Usually you take the easy way out.”

“What does that mean?’

“‘I’m tired – lets eat in and go to bed early’.”

“I’m a guy. I always seek the path of least resistance whenever possible. Sit down a relax a bit.”

“You are the one who was stressed out.”

“It’s a normal state of being for me. I’ll prevail.”

“I hope so.”

Paul joined her on the couch. “You look pretty.”

“Thank you. You look handsome.”

“We match well, then.”

She laughed. “Whatever’s different about you, keep it going, okay?”

As the news on world viewer played in the background, they shared light conversation about other things that had happened throughout the day, mainly the morning events in Clare’s life at her dance studio. She was grateful when Julie called her suggesting they take the afternoon off and head for the beach.

Clare looked at her wristband. “We probably should be going.”

Paul smiled, starting to get up a few seconds before his cell phone ringer flashed on his wrist. He tapped his earlobe, “Hello.”

“Hey, it’s me,” his sister’s voice was welcome.

“I was going to call you. What’s the news?” He tapped his right wrist to display her holographic image in the palm of his outstretched hand so that at least Clare knew whom he was talking to.

“I didn’t get the part.”

“When you didn’t call, I was worried it was something like that.”

“They wouldn’t tell me until yesterday. I went out with friends and got drunk after I found out. I’ve been sleeping it off all day.”

“Are you okay now?” He asked then allayed Clare’s concern with a nod and a wink.

“Except I want to come home and I have no money. I mean, I really am embarrassed having to ask you, but…”

“I’ll get you home if that is what you want. How much do you need?”

“I don’t even know,” she said. “I have really tried to make it on my own. I even took a job waiting tables.”

“I think Chase might have something to interest you.”

“Really, I thought he did musical groups, not actors.”

“I think you need to broaden your horizons a little, sis.”

“Well, I’m an actress.”

“You have an amazing voice. You should be singing.”

“I’ve been auditioning for musicals, Paul.”

“You’re not getting the traction you need. For whatever reason, they’re passing you over, but everyone who knows you says you have a wonderful singing voice. So, let it become your vehicle.”

“I’m trying to do just that.”

“You aren’t getting it. Listen to me, Cristina. You have to make it where you can, and then go on from there. Then you can do the other things you want to accomplish. Once you have established your credibility, you can do other things maybe something you can’t imagine right now.”

“Well, I guess if you pay my way home I should at least listen to your advice.”

Paul laughed. “If you think I’m full of shit, just tell me.”

“It’s not that.”

“I think I’m being pretty reasonable.”

“Some of what you say makes sense.”

“Cristina, honestly. I think everything will be fine for you, but you have to adapt. It’s a big, strange world.”

“Yeah strange is not the half of it. Lately, I’ve had some bizarre dreams.”

“Really?” Paul asked even as Clare reached up on her tiptoes to kiss him on the cheek and then proceeded on toward the bedroom. “Hold on.”

“Okay,” Cristina said.

“Hon, retrieve the coach and I’ll be right down.”

“Last night could be explained away by all the alcohol. But even before that…the dreams are like the world had not been completely terraformed – like it was forty years ago, you know all the cities were still domed.”

Paul laughed.

“The strangest part, you were in a lot of trouble there,” she said. “You were in prison and trying to escape. It was very bizarre.”

“And what was it that you did in that world?”

“What do you mean what was I doing there? It was a dream, or more like a nightmare.”

“No, I mean what did you do for a living?”

“I don’t…remember…well, but no, I think…I think I was actually a singer.”

“See, in your dreams it’s your destiny. Take it as a sign.”

“Maybe it is, Paul. I don’t know. I’m tired of this craziness. And I want to see you and just sleep for a while.”

“Good you can rest up and when I go to New Milan next month you can come with me.”

“I’ll be back at school by then,” she protested.

“So you have spent almost two full years learning how to act and perform…”

“But I can’t land a role at an audition.”

“Sometimes, I think destiny forces your hand. Maybe you need to audition for a rock band in New Milan.”

“We’ll see.”

“Come home and make a fresh start, sis. Take a sabbatical from your studies. I have always thought you have the potential to be a star. All you need is to find the right path. Chase seems to think you’ll work out for this band in New Milan.”

“I don’t know…”

“The two guitarists are professional sound engineers so the audition will be at a real studio. Chase knew one of them, a drummer from another association. Chase sort of auditioned them. He said what they lack is a vocalist of your caliber.”

“He said that?”

“Maybe not in those exact words, but it was his idea to ask you to audition.”

“So, he’s the one who put you up to this?”

“Yeah, well, I worry about my baby sister, especially when she calls me to tell me she’s broke.”

“Okay, I hear you. I told you I’d give it a shot.”

“Go into this with a positive attitude. I have a very good feeling about this.”

“You know me. I’m always positive whenever I audition.”

“This can work for you.”

“In a strange way, I feel good about it, too,” she confessed.

“That’s the Cristina I know and love. Go to the station in the morning. I’ll arrange everything for the ticket from this end, okay?”

“I appreciate this a lot, Paul.”

“Hey, if I was in trouble I know you’d come to my aid.”

“Since Dad and Mom…well we only have each other.”

“I know. We have to be family first. “

“I’ll call if there is any change.”

“Okay, sis,” Paul said. “Have a safe trip.”

“See you day after tomorrow.”

He tapped his earlobe to disconnect the call. He went to the kitchen for a glass of water, fully intending to go straight downstairs. He hoped Clare was not pissed at having to wait. But when he passed through the dining room he felt the strange presence again, an eerie sensation as if he just passed through another consciousness, causing him to shiver as his skin erupted into gooseflesh.

“Who’s there?” He challenged.

With no answer, even the sensation of the presence was gone.

He continued, rapidly gulping down the water.

“Is anything wrong?” Clare stood in the doorway?”

“No, I was just coming. I’m still having odd feelings,” he said.

“Maybe you need to rest. We can go out some other time.”

“No, I need to spend all the time I can with you.” He felt the presence again – behind him, but saw nothing.

“You’re sure?”

“Yeah.” He nodded.

He opened the closet door on his way out the door to grab a light jacket. After slipping it on he stepped out into the hallway to join Clare. “I hope I don’t get a ticket. I’m parked in the loading zone.”

“Sorry.”

“It’s okay. So, Cristina is coming home?”

“Yeah. I have to get her a ticket.”

Clare nodded as they arrived at the elevator.

“She’ll be here at least a month. Then she’s going out to New Milan.”

“With Chase and you?”

“Or just Chase. I haven’t decided to go.”

The elevator doors opened. They stepped inside. He pressed the button for the lobby. Then as mostly a reflex he plunged his hands into the jacket pockets, his right one wrapped around a small orb. Withdrawing his hand he looked at it resting in his palm.

“What’s that?”

“Something I thought I lost.” He closed his fist around it, the opening his hand palm up it disappeared.

“That’s from the magic act you used to do?”

He chuckled. “Yeah. Maybe that was the last time I wore this jacket.”

“You need to check your pockets before you hang things up.” She wrapped her arm around his elbow.

“I know, hon. Sometimes I forget,” Paul admitted.

“So, where are we heading?”

“I thought you wanted me to surprise you.”

“I said that, didn’t I?”

“Having second thoughts?”

“No, it’ll be fine. I’m sure,” Clare said.

The End

Blues, Led Zep, Led Zeppelin, music, Music Reviews, Rock Music, Uncategorized

Music Review of Greta Van Fleet – From The Fires EP (2017)

It’s been a while since I wrote an album review. I think the last one I did was for Them Crooked Vultures, which ironically has a member of Led Zeppelin, John Paul Jones, in the line up. Anyway, I think that it’s a commentary on how dull and unimaginative most music of late that I haven’t been compelled for critique a band for a while. Have you ever noticed how the mainstream of pop music is pretty-much cookie-cutter, formula-driven drivel? Yes, there are exceptions. And sure, I’m an old fart and as a rule we always say stuff like that. The old farts of my time said the same about the music I grew up with. But the other day I happened upon something kind of exciting and exceptional, in a throwback sort of way. It’s bluesy and hard driving, and what the heck, Josh, the lead singer, sounds more like Robert Plant than the Led Zeppelin front man has for decades.

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The band is called Greta Van Fleet. They’re out of a little town in Michigan called Frankenmuth. The name is borrowed from a town matriarch whose real name is Gretna. The octogenarian attended one of group’s concerts and gave the band her blessing on using the modified name. Three members of the band are brothers:  Joshua Kiszka, Jacob Kiszka, and Samuel Kiszka, along with Daniel Wagner on drums. The brothers grew up listening to the blues. Their father plays a mean harmonica, from what I hear, and has an extensive vinyl collection that the boys all but wore out as they were growing up.

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The band has two current recordings available, the first is a four track EP titled Black Smoke Rising (4/2017) and the second an 8 track EP that combines the previous work with 4 additional tunes, titled From The Fires (11/17). Note, original drummer Kyle Hauck appears on some of the band’s earliest live recordings with the present drummer, Danny Wagner appearing on the most recent studio releases. Most of the songs on the EP are original material, which is exciting, since the band could have easily been a successful tribute band covering Led Zeppelin classics. But the fact they are going their own direction portends good things coming along in the future.

As a diehard Led Zep fan I was taken aback when I first heard a live version of Highway Tune. I’m still not sure whether the studio version or the live version is the best, and that probably doesn’t matter. Have your pick, they’re both tasty. The live track demonstrates the musicianship of the band members, which the studio version only modestly enhances. I get the feeling the band records stuff live, for the most part, because, having watched full concerts available on YouTube, the integrity of the sound doesn’t suffer in live venues.

Honestly, I was never a huge fan of Led Zep’s live stuff, mostly bootlegs, but especially The Song Remains the Same (10/1976), which was the soundtrack of a movie by the same name, that includes tracks recorded during the band’s heyday mid-seventies tours. Led Zep’s studio recordings, especially the later albums, relied heavily on effects and overdubs to achieve the sound and that makes it difficult to replicate in concert. A more recent reworking of TSRTM’s soundtrack with different concert recordings patched in here and there makes the album more listenable, though I question whether the trickery is a fair and honest representation of what the band really sounded like when performing live. Please don’t get me wrong, Led Zep were innovators, especially their early work and they paved the way for a lot of blues-influenced, harder-driving rock bands that followed. And most fans who attended their concerts would quickly argue that the concerts were memorable events driven by excitement bordering of mass hysteria.

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What I like best about Greta Van Fleet is the faithful homage to the band’s blues roots. The 8 tracks of the EP include covers of a Sam Cooke tune, A Change Is Gonna Come and Fairport Convention’s gospel-esque Meet On The Ledge. There isn’t a throwaway song in the mix, though my favorites are the aforementioned Highway Tune, Safari Song and Black Smoke Rising. Why no Led Zep covers? That is the elephant in the room with a voice like Josh’s fronting the group. Maybe the band will do one or two songs in the future, but from where I sit it is not necessary and would only confuse the band’s brand that is still forming and gathering a following. Certainly, they could do a set with covers of Rock and Roll, Black Dog and D’yer Mak’er– to name a few and I’d certainly buy in. The band’s musicianship is definitely up to the task.

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One question I would have is how Danny Wagner’s percussion work would match up with John Bonham’s original counter-rhythmic, avant-garde style. Wagner is more traditional in his approach, which isn’t a bad thing because the backbeat throughout the EP is solid and driving.

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Also, I am sure Jake could cover Jimmy Page’s guitar work but at the risk of offending Led Zep purists who might take exception when he deviates or modifies the original licks to incorporate his own flare and interpretation. So, staying away from what is already a natural comparison of sound and styles and sticking to original work, for the most part, is a much better tact.

 

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Check out the band on YouTube or, if you get the chance, see them live. I think they’re going to be around on the music scene for a while and that makes me happy.

From The Fires EP Tracks:

Safari Song

Edge of Darkness

Flower Power

A Change Is Gonna Come

Highway Tune

Meet On The Ledge

Talk On The Street

Black Smoke Rising