On the Culture Front: Music from the Underground, Part 16

12/06/2017 03:18 pm ET

It’s not surprising that seventies country-rock had a big influence on Geoff Gibbons. His album, “Buffalo Hotel,” is filled with warm tuneful melodies and quietly introspective lyrics. The opening track, “Ain’t Going Back,” echoes of the Eagles. On it he softly croons, “My feet are moving faster now than my will to fix the things I’ve busted.” It’s rough-edged honesty like this that draws in the listener. His sound coalesces on the soul-infused “Back to You,” which charts a hard-fought journey and is buoyed by organ flourishes and carefully placed guitar fills. The ballad “Ever Get to Georgia” melds regret with a second-chance optimism that’s layered onto a melody that teeters between mournful and resolute. By the song’s peak, Gibbons is belting with a gospel-like intensity, giving it a rich and textured intensity.

The “Craig” in It’s Just Craig is a fortysomething corporate lawyer from Fishers, Indiana. He happens to be friends with indie producer John Vanderslice who guides him to lo-fi bliss on his second album, “Dark Corners.” Their first album, “Blood on the Table,” takes its name from Vanderslice’s belief in embracing rather than smoothing out imperfections. The result is warm, distortion fuzz-coated tracks that feature Craig’s understated drawl on top of somber yet hopeful melodies. One examples of this is “Leaving Now.” The farewell ballad opens with the kind of sad sparse guitar notes that a lonesome cowboy would play after losing his horse during a battle and hiding out behind a rock while plotting his next move. “I’m leaving now / There’s no coming back” he sings plaintively. With its vaguely nautical concept album theme, it has faint echoes of Neutral Milk Hotel’s “In the Aeroplane Over the Sea” though it’s cut from a much more mellow cloth.

Dutch songwriter Saycille previously worked in home healthcare and only started writing songs last year. “Wish” beams with a straight-forward optimism and kindness. It’s center around a simple desire for her fellow humans to be imbued with self-esteem. There aren’t any contrasting melodies or themes, but there’s an easy folk catchiness to it. I could see it being played for the patients she cared for.

In case you wondered what kind of music Henry Metal play, they named their latest album, “Metal O Clock.” The first seconds of the opening track, “I Don’t Care” opens on a lighter note that illuminates the group’s breadth of impulses. Hardcore band Fucked Up comes to mind, the way they tease out a moment or two of calm in the middle of thrashing intensity. The beat soon quickens and is punctuated by the signature metal guitar thrumming. Expansive solos often soar above this wall of sound, adding another layer of intensity. There’s a whimsy to the lyrics though that gives even the heaviest songs levity. Metalheads might find this a refreshing respite from the usual fare.

Jay Clark Band churns out country-tinged classic rock from the heartland. Led by Ohio-based musician Jay Clark, the group plays solid roadhouse songs that blend the fiery guitar solos of Rob Carlson with Clark’s warm and easy-going phrasing. The title track on their upcoming album, “Turning it Up,” plays like an anthem to amped-up living and could be played to a backdrop of beer bottles smashing. By contrast, the final track, “Hometown,” is a wistful tune about longing for the past and familiarity. The lyrics are clunky but the sentiment feels real. Clark feels most in his element though on more full-throttle songs like “Loud,” an anthem espousing the virtues of cranking it up to eleven.

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