The hits keep coming from Central Oregon artists.
It’s been a little longer than a month since I last reviewed a batch new releases from musicians in Bend and beyond, and the queue has refilled and then some. So in the interest of playing catch-up and maybe clearing out some space on my desk (or my inbox, as it were), your friendly neighborhood music reporter has once again rounded up a slew of reviews for your reading pleasure.
Oh, and by the way, I didn’t even clean out the queue. At the rate we’re going, expect another one of these in a month or so.
“Leadbetter Band,” Leadbetter Band, self-released
Former Jive Coulis frontman Eric Leadbetter opens a new musical chapter on this self-titled debut from his hard-rocking power trio. The Leadbetter Band, featuring busy local bassist Patrick Pearsall and drummer Dylan Bernal, emerged in early 2017 shortly after Leadbetter relocated from Ashland to Bend. While much of the trio’s self-titled debut could be considered a spiritual successor to Jive Coulis’ blues-rocking albums (Leadbetter said the name change came about because of Coulis’ ever-revolving lineup), that’s missing the full picture. Songs such as “Grand Misconception,” “Faded Wings” and thundering closer “Bleed Out” push into ominous, sub-Sabbath riffery, while “Laughin’ Joe” sounds ripped straight from the jam-band playbook. Throughout, Pearsall and Bernal lay down thick, pulsating rhythms that serve as perfect foil for Leadbetter’s smooth vocal delivery and snarling, shredding guitar.
“Beyond Neblar,” Maxwell Friedman Group, self-released
Fifteen-year-old organ prodigy (and Hammond artist) Friedman and his crack quartet — featuring Gabe Johnson on guitar, Mark Karwan on bass and Connor Streeter on drums — prove why they’re Central Oregon’s top band on their monstrous, debut live album. Taken from a November 2018 McMenamins Old St. Francis School show, “Beyond Neblar” packs an hour’s worth of tasty funk-jazz-rock-fusion jams into its nine-song run, all captured beautifully by engineer Matthew Fletcher (seriously, this thing sounds crisper than some recent, major-label studio albums I could name). Most of the record focuses on Friedman’s original compositions, revealing him to be just as deft a composer as an instrumentalist — highlights include the bouncy grooves of “Neblar,” the slow-burn fusion of “Father Figure” and the driving funk freakout “Northrup.” A pair of covers — the organ classic “Root Down (and Get It)” and a take on Phish’s arrangement of the theme from “2001: A Space Odyssey” — close the album out with some out-there jamming, giving everyone in the group a chance to shine.
“Groovasaur,” Groovasaur, self-released
Despite the name, this Bend six-piece is no musical dinosaur. The band’s five-song debut EP arrives about a year and a half into its existence and manages to find a couple of new twists on the jam-band and fusion genres. Kicking off with the manic funk of “Square Peg,” the EP gets spacier the longer it plays. Guitarist Neal Marks drives the rocking “Steely Joe,” while “Puppy League” takes a slow-burn approach for its first three minutes before settling into a funky groove courtesy of keyboardist Adam Zukaitis and trumpeter Marc Saccoman. The record culminates with “Spinach Gets Funkier,” a whiplash jam that brings to mind some of the more sci-fi elements of the funk genre. A promising debut from a band starting to find its voice.
“Chapter 1: In Betweenin’,” AUSTN, Ten Thousand Projects
Los Angeles-based Bend native Austin Brown went viral on Instagram last year with his earnest songs and powerful voice, leading the 16-year-old to switch his focus from acting to music. His debut EP, which dropped just months later on L.A. indie label Ten Thousand Projects, shows he made the right choice. The songwriting is firmly in the modern-pop milieu, with tracks such as the energetic title song and “Backup Plan” piling sugar-sweet hooks on top of thudding electronic beats and thick production. Lyrically, Brown focuses on unrequited crushes and other typical teenage concerns. While not necessarily rewriting the pop rulebook, “In Betweenin’” triumphs thanks to Brown’s impressive vocals — at 16, he displays the voice control of someone at least twice his age — and near endless enthusiasm. Another artist to keep an eye on.
— Want your album reviewed? Reach music reporter Brian McElhiney at firstname.lastname@example.org or 541-617-7814.