M. Sartain = Starmy + Sebadoh + Elliot Smith
Nepotism can do strange things when it comes to music. If it were not for famous siblings, there would have been no careers for Roger Clinton, Tommy Cash or Jermaine Jackson. But before you believe that brotherly kindness only manifests itself in national acts, consider the local surname Sartain. Under normal conditions, TheCamelotSessions would never have seen the light of day, but since local venue hound Will Sartain has recently ventured into record making, putting out his brother’s throw-away material makes perfect sense. With this disc, Mike Sartain unloads a score of ambient, low-budget cuts. Some of the songs seem more like song sketches than complete compostitions, like the “Her Majesty” track on The Beatles’ Abbey Road. Overall, Camelot has the feel of early Sebadoh or one of the myriad other Eric Gaffney/Lou Barlow collaborations (Sentridoh, anyone?). The final product is quite listenable and a little aggressive, even if a tad bit derivative. Plus, there are photos of young Mike in a sleeveless shirt. Sassy!
Street: whenever you’d like
Ralp = Dead or Alive + John Lennon-style vocal + Big Black
According to Moondog Music, Ralp (Casey Fritz to those in the know) has recorded over 200 songs, all of which are downloadable through their website. This makes reviewing this three song demo a little strange. Two years ago, SLUG reviewed Ralp’s first six-song demo in these very pages. Where it gets interesting is that all three songs on this disc were also on the first one. But never one to shun redundancy, it must be said that this homemade, single-person-performed trio of songs is actually very listenable. And where the music seems at times limited by the multi-track, electronic feel of a studio work, the vulnerable, almost 1980s John Lennon-sounding vocal ties everything together well. And while we here at SLUG would have preferred to be treated to a few of the other 200 tracks on the Moondog site, the cuts on this mini sampler work well enough together to inspire a little curiosity for more Ralp. But who knows? When we re-review this one again in two years, we may just change our minds.
Big Black Sky
Big Black Sky = Leftover Salmon + Son Volt + Flash Cabbage
It’s always good to hear local music that differs from the norm. This debut CD from Big Black Sky is a unique-sounding animal in the sense that it sounds different from almost everything else going on in Salt Lake these days. But different isn’t always good. Sure, BBS straddles the musical line between traditional roots rock and the alt-country sound that seems to be doing so well in the local scene. And lyrically, the 11 tracks on Inside Passage are all quite thick—weaving together stories about criminality, natural disasters and old, departed authors. As a local release it’s good, but it’s not really that remarkable. I wanted it to either hit harder or to mellow out more. Instead, the disk seemed to follow that familiar, well-traveled path that has led so many to mediocrity. The music seemed worn out, and the lyrics seemed a little too concerned with dropping literary references to really flow well. Plus, the intro to “Nevertheless a Mess” reminded me a little too much of a Rod Stewart song. I mean, come on guys, if you’re looking for oil, there are better places to drill.