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article by: Michael Canter

18 September 2012

CD Review - Fassler Hall Presents The New Tulsa Sound 2 (The Church Studio Sessions)

"When you come across a compilation with a lot of great music that eclectically spans a number of popular genres, one that's a true front-to-backer, it would be genuinely unfair not to put the word out.  Add to that the fact that on this compilation by Horton Records we are not just talking about one record label, but rather a magnificent sample of an entire region, and well, it is almost necessary to enlighten the masses."
~ New Tulsa Sound Vol. 1 Review


Release Date: 27-September-2012
Genre: Folk / Rock / Blues / Visual-Ambient / Singer-Songwriter
Publisher: [P][C] 2012 Horton Records
Label: Horton Records (Tulsa, OK)
Total Time: 1h 11m 51s
Review Date: 18-September-2012
Format: CD
Bit Rate: 320 kbps
Songs in Jivewired Radio Rotation:  All songs from this compilation
Jivewired Digital Press Kit: http://jivewired.com/thenewtulsasound

Get it at:

Horton Records | Amazon

Track Listing:

01. Them Tulsa Boys by The Paul Benjaman Band 4:40
02. Easy People by Pilgrim 5:03
03. Town In Oklahoma by Wink Burcham 6:41
04. Agnes & Myrtle by The Panda Resistance 5:35
05. Big Dream by Desi & Cody 5:45
06. Nemesis by Dead Sea Choir 4:20
07. Crying Tree by Fiawna Forte 4:40
08. Dying Of Thirst by Refund Division 3:46
09. The Ocean by The Dustin Pittsley Band 5:01
10. The Wicked Dance by Vandevander 3:26
11. Okie Locate by Gogo Plumbay 4:59
12. Dark Dirt Road by The Steve Pryor Band 4:15
13. Heat by Whirligig 3:47
14. Working by And There Stand Empires 5:57
15. Busted by Low Litas 2:57
16. Love Is Life by Jesse Aycock 5:29


Back in April of this year I reviewed Volume One of the The New Tulsa Sound series on Horton Records and that record was phenomenal.  In fact, Volume One best represented the overall vibe in Tulsa, and having made four trips to Tulsa since that review I can honestly say that Brian Horton did an excellent job in his sonic portrayal of that great city's eclectic, indie music scene.  Brian arguably offers the best eye, and ear, of what's happening in Tulsa.  He doesn't just have his finger on the pulse of what's happening musically, he is the pulse.

Volume One of the series provided an instant high-water mark, and living up to that benchmark was indeed a tall task.  In creating a companion LP,  Horton lit a fire under his artists, making sure that the recordings on Fassler Hall Presents The New Tulsa Sound 2: The Church Studio Sessions were all original works, specifically written and produced with the intent of creating this compilation.  And it's a winner.  In talent, content, production and engineering, New Tulsa 2 shows incredible maturity and further exemplifies what may currently be the nation's hottest indie music scene.

There is not a bad song on this disc and there are some songs that are exceptionally strong.  My personal favorites are Agnes & Myrtle by The Panda Resistance, Crying Tree by Fiawna Forte and Busted by Low Litas.  Big Dream by Desi & Cody is a big, delicious step forward for the duo and Paul Benjaman's Them Tulsa Boys is my go to song on this compilation.  Wink Burcham's Town In Oklahoma is a tender and reflective opus that is a heartfelt thank you sung specifically to his parents. All the songs are truly wonderful.  In fact, this is the first full album, by anybody, where we've put every single song into rotation on Jivewired Radio. 

There's also a bit more of an edgier sound courtesy of Vandevander and Refund Division, whose songs The Wicked Dance and Dying Of Thirst  respectively prove that Tulsa is more than just Folk, Americana and Alt-Country in style and substance.  And if you are into more eclectic, visual soundscapes, the songs by Go Go Plumbay, The Panda Resistance, And There Stand Empires and Dead Sea Choir are absolute jams.  There's something for every particular taste on Fassler Hall Presents The New Tulsa Sound 2: The Church Studio Sessions and all of it is truly wonderful.  Dare I say better than Volume One?  In fact I do.

A track-by-track synopsis for your perusal.

Track 1: Them Tulsa Boys by The Paul Benjaman Band

What a great way to kick-off New Tulsa 2.  You could do a search on this site for Paul Benjaman and the superlatives with which I've described this guitarist/vocalist would make your head spin.  Paul's love of music shows in everything he puts a guitar lick to and this song is no exception.  It's a sweaty and subtly sexy blues-and-funk number that bumps, grinds, teases and pleases.  In substance, it's last call, one last drink and a shared exit through the back door.  The guitar/keyboard interplay is mesmerizing.  It's almost unfair.

Track 2: Easy People by Pilgrim

Beau Roberson has an easily identifiable voice.  He has a sort of signature growl which erupts with effortless delivery that makes a very bold, self-confident and definitive statement about his talents as a vocalist.  Add to that a burning jam and some loud, proud guitar work and you have one of the more exciting songs on this compilation.  Equally as sexy as the first track, but in a far less subtle way, Roberson will command and demand your attention for the better part of five minutes with an exercise in blues rock that will absolutely drain your soul.

Track 3: Town In Oklahoma by Wink Burcham

Men don't cry, except when our parents die, our children are born and maybe at the end of the movie Field Of Dreams. Add this song to that list.  This is the third consecutive song on New Tulsa 2 that is a direct reflection of the Oklahoma way of life, but this one offers the most personal message.

There are a million ways to say thank you, but when you do it in a song that is as lovingly touching as this one there is simply no parallel. And the thing is, Wink is most grateful for the one thing his parents did that matters most:  despite a hiccup or two, their guidance made him the man that he is today.  Others may have been given more materially, but none of them became what Wink has become, and therefore none received a greater gift.  Wink shows his eternal gratitude and returns that love in lyrical sublimity.  Town In Oklahoma is a perfect campfire song, and if you are a young man getting married in Oklahoma, there is not a better dance-with-your-mama song than this one.

Track 4: Agnes & Myrtle by The Panda Resistance

When I wrote my review of Volume One, I just didn't "get"  The Panda Resistance, and for that I apologize.  It took meeting bassist and group founder Bo Haliford at Norman Music Fest and seeing the band perform live at Free Tulsa Fest for me to have that light bulb moment.  This is a great band that weaves amazing visual soundscapes with classical instrumentation that combines free-form, melody-driven experimentation and post-rock subtleties into some of the best music you'll hear.  For comparison, think of Explosions In The Sky with David Gilmour of Pink Floyd on guitar.  The Panda Resistance is not just a band, it's a way of making music.  Agnes & Myrtle is absolutely captivating.

Track 5: Big Dream by Desi & Cody

I've spent a lot of time with Desirae Roses and Cody Clinton on my visits to Tulsa.  I now consider them very good friends more than I think of them as industry peers, and speaking from the heart, if I may, both performers take an incredible leap forward with Big Dream.  Cody has really embraced and ingrained himself in this side of his musical abilities, and Desi is at her finest vocally here.  There is a ton of heart in this song, it's message is nearly autobiographical in nature and their love of performing side-by-side is clearly evident.  Desi's voice takes the listener right to the precipice of her register and then holds on tightly, as a good friend with a beautifully comforting voice should.  Friendships aside, Big Dream is the best song I've heard by this enchanting duo, hands down.

Track 6: Nemesis by Dead Sea Choir

Costa Stasinopoulos of Dead Sea Choir was part of the mixing and engineering team on the recording of this entire compilation.  Kudos for a job well done.  Dead Sea Choir's entry here is equally impressive.  Showing a bit less density than on previous efforts, Nemesis is a superior track that weaves expert instrumentation in and around Costa's impeccable vocal abilities.  It's a little more pop-friendly than previous efforts as well, but not in the killjoy and over-hyped delineation that usually conjoins the terms pop and friendly, or pop with anything for that matter.  Simply put, it has substance and drive and a killer, brooding bridge that frames Costa's high register and the band's inherent abilities to perfection.  A focused and stoically cerebral effort and a definite highlight on this album.

Track 7: Crying Tree by Fiawna Forte

Fiawna is the real deal and may be the next big thing out of Tulsa.  As a singer, songwriter and performer she is at that point in her career where all that is left is national recognition.  Crying Tree is definitely a step in the right direction.  Forte is at her best when she gets emotionally charged up in her lyrical content and stage demeanor and this song most definitely plays on that killer combination. The song constantly builds in speed and motility to an incendiary crescendo.  In layman's terms, it flat out rocks.  Crying Tree is a sonic earthquake.

Track 8: Dying Of Thirst by Refund Division

Note to self:  Learn more about Refund Division.

I really like this song but in full disclosure I know very little about Refund Division.  I saw them at Norman Music Fest in April, met both Matt Fisher and Nathan Price and was impressed with their set, but during their performance I was constantly meeting a number of people.   So, it was one of those situations where I could dig what was going on but ill-timed interruptions took my focus away.  I never fully made it through one complete song, certainly not enough of any song, really, to fully appreciate those abilities as sadly, the set became a background to everything else.

To the band, I apologize.

I grew up loving Joy Division.  There are some sonic similarities here.  Dying Of Thirst offers true post-punk sensibilities in feel and energy, replete with buzzing, low-fi guitar licks and an amazing fury of neo-psychedlia guitar distortion that gets progressively intense as the song continues.  The percussion, by the way, is absolutely brilliant.   I am hoping that this is the band's signature sound and intend to explore Refund Division's catalog in short time.

Track 9: The Ocean by The Dustin Pittsley Band

As close to delta-style blues as anything on this recording, Dustin Pittsley says as much with his guitar as he does with his lyrics.  This song leaves an awful lot of room for musical improvisation, so I imagine in a live setting it is incredibly amazing.  And maybe there is improvisation going on here, one never knows, because it is a finished product.  It's easy to imagine Brian Horton telling Dustin to "just let 'er rip" while recording this.  The guitar solos could go on forever, theoretically, but they can't in a studio setting because of time constraints.  Leave it to Dustin to make the most of every breathing second of this recording.  Just put this track on repeat, close your eyes, and enjoy over and over and over and over.  I say Dustin did this song in one take.  It is easy to see he certainly owns it.

Track 10: The Wicked Dance by Vandevander

Vandevander rocks.  It says so on his Facebook page.  That is 100% accurate in description.

The Wicked Dance is an amazing song.  Imagine what you would get if you took the edgiest White Stripes song, let's say Ball and Biscuit, and a down and dirty Led Zeppelin blues jam, I don't know, maybe Custard Pie or The Lemon Song, for instance, placed them in a super-collider and played the deliverable.  The whole would inevitably be greater than the sum of it's parts.  That's The Wicked Dance.  It is a truly amazing, borderline genius rock song.  And come on, if you have heard it, it has the perfect demeanor and kick ass attitude for one of those Captain Morgan's commercials.  If you are looking for a true representation of hard rock music, the legendary stuff that made critics like Lester Bangs CREEM in reverent fanaticism, a song to kick sand in the face of the saccharin music that poses as hard rock these days, this is it.  This is the heat.  This is the fury.  Vandevander rocks.  No lie.

This Lester Bangs-inspired descriptive was approved by the Jivewired Board of Directors.  You are welcome to freely use it when describing Vandevander to your friends.

Track 11: Okie Locate by Gogo Plumbay

The thing about Gogo Plumbay is that their music inspires me to read Jack Kerouac and Hunter S. Thompson.  That means nothing to you and probably will not evoke a similar response in anybody. There's a lot going on but it's all amazing.  How does one describe Gogo Plumbay?  Their bio says "Definitely jazz.  Definitely not jazz."  Seems legit.  Needs more elaboration.

On Volume One I said something like "Gogo goes great with a neat scotch and that tall, beautiful stranger checking you out from across the room."  Also seems legit. 

Well, they don't play for critical acclaim, so anything I say means absolutely nothing.  But think about how refreshing that is for a moment.  Positive or negative reviews will neither motivate nor infuriate these guys.  So they must play for the love of the music they create.  And the music they create is good, but it's not for everybody.

There's a party going on in this song.  But it's invite only.  So you either get it or you don't.  I get it.

Track 12: Dark Dirt Road by The Steve Pryor Band

I remember going through my Albert King/Stevie Ray Vaughan/Pat Travers phase when I was younger and going ape-shit when I first discovered Bridge Of Sighs by Robin Trower.  Had I known Steve Pryor at that time we would have likely bonded as friends over common music choices.  I'd like to think so anyway.

Dark Dirt Road is a bad ass song.  It's gritty.  It's hot.  It's bad-assed blues-based rock.  Steve Pryor is somewhat of a Tulsa guitar legend who has spiked nationally previously.  I could see a scenario where Marc Broussard was actually influenced by Pryor if you are looking for a valid comparative reference point.  Pryor's guitar is masterful.  And that's the whole story.  Simple.  Eloquent.  Impeccably crafted.  And the man can sing, too. 

If you like music along the lines of Kenny Wayne Shepherd and Jonny Lang you'll love The Steve Pryor Band.  Fire it up and enjoy.

Track 13: Heat by Whirligig

Heat is a fine example of jam-based rock and roll and is therefore slightly askew from everything else going on here.  Whirligig stands alone on this compilation in that they are truly a one-of-a-kind representation.  In fact, Whirligig may be the actual melting pot of the entire New Tulsa 2 effort, as the band combines equal parts blues, folk, rock and alt-country and that singer-songwriter storytelling vibe. And that really defines jam-based music in the truest sense.  It's easy to picture Bob Weir and Jerry Garcia covering this song with the Dead back in their heyday, which makes this song right up my alley.  Jam bands were cool when they were represented by the Grateful Dead and nobody else, when the formula was more blues than jazz and more folk and alt-country than pop and rock.  Whirligig leans on that historic formula in the most traditional sense. 

Track 14: Working by And There Stand Empires

The final of four ambient and visual-music spectacles on New Tulsa 2, And There Stand Empires  really showcases the widely-diversified music offerings of Tulsa, OK.   Working is a beautifully dense and lushly descriptive instrumental that runs the gamut of progressive introspective emotion.  It's pretty and melancholy at the same time, with resounding guitar work and pounding drums that contradict the cold finality in the keyboards and with crescendos and diminuendos that strategically battle  in mock, call-response warfare.  This band is very good at this sort of thing, a song being a brilliant story rather than just a minor sketch that fits within a bigger storyline.  And in it's ambiguous emotion, Working is somewhat cathartic. What could be the soundtrack to one's rainy day tragedy may be the  memoirs of another person's joyous lifetime.  When you can pull that off, that's magic.

Track 15: Busted by Low Litas

Cranking it up one last time before the album's final approach, Low Litas are the latest addition to The New Tulsa Sound.  Equal parts girl group gloss, low-fi modesty and brash, punk rock intensity, Busted oozes in recklessly cool abandon.  Behind all of that there is more to the shoegazer feel that this song implies.  Look for clues within the structure of the chorus and bridge, where the band kicks it up a notch or two.  This song is deceitfully fun.   There's a teasing, slow-burning feel to this song, at least from my viewpoint.  The pristine production may also overshadow the song's complexity a bit, but it's there if you dig deeply.  It all adds up to more than you think you're getting, a meteor stream when you were looking for a simple star, for example.  It's not loud, screaming guitar solos but rather a collective that meshes perfectly.  The opening bass and percussion combo is killer.

Track 16: Love Is Life by Jesse Aycock

It's a curse and a blessing when one of the best songs on an album saddles in as it's final offering.  On the one hand, it is well worth the wait, and, because it is decidedly not simple filler, the song shows the absolute strength of the album to have such a strong closing track.  On the other hand, you feel slightly slighted having listened to over an hour of music only to discover one of it's better songs at the end.  Even with fifteen stellar tracks preceding Love Is Life, you feel sort of like, "Last?  Really?" -- I get it, hence the saying, saving the best for last.

This song is esoterically cool, in a way that there is a message within and one worth listening to, and waiting for, as it were.  It's simply profound in nature, and doesn't take much digging to comprehend it lyrically.  But pay attention the the bridge, which is dynamically beautiful, Jesse's guitar solos, which are intoxicating, and the lucid chorus, which includes many of Tulsa's finest musicians (and Mr. Larry White, too).  

Jesse Aycock plays guitar and steel pedal with a number of The New Tulsa artists.  I've personally seen him playing with Paul Benjaman, Wink Burcham, Desi & Cody and Pilgrim, and I'm sure there are many others, but I've not seen his solo act and he is vastly underrated as a vocalist.   His register is on the high end but without force or restraint, and he sits very comfortably in his range.  His message is elegant in it's evocation, deliberate without being self-serving.  At his best, like on Love Is Life, Aycock is a gifted pop melodocist.   A great closing song and in the end, well-placed due to it's message and repetitive mantra.

About Horton Records:

Fassler Hall presents THE NEW TULSA SOUND Vol. 2:  The Church Studio Sessions is a compilation of established and emerging Tulsa artists. It's an amalgam of styles and sounds that somehow works in a magical way with the common threads being quality musicianship and the city of Tulsa.

In February 2012, a group of Tulsa musicians came together for 10 days at the legendary Church Studio in Tulsa, OK to share each others' spirit of collaboration and community.  Much like their highly revered and deeply respected predecessors and originators of the Tulsa Sound, this family of artists exudes a similar, unique musical quality that continues to pour from this place.  This recording documents the fellowship that was experienced at those sessions.  It was a magical moment in time with smiles, laughter, and even tears of joy and fulfillment.  They hope you feel some of that same love and spirit and pass it on.  Peace from Tulsa!

The first installment of this compilation, The Colony presents THE NEW TULSA SOUND Vol. 1, was released in June 2010 and features 18 artists from the Tulsa melting pot of music.  Both releases are available from Horton Records.

Horton Records, LTD is a non-profit label based in Tulsa, OK. Our mission is to provide support and tools in terms of band management, promotion, booking, merchandising, and distribution in order to help local and regional musicians fulfill their artistic goals and further promote local and regional music on a broader scale.

For the love of music.  Pass it on.

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