Nick Piunti & The Complicated Men
Nick Piunti and The Complicated Men continue their 2020 hot streak with Christmas Morning, a nifty bit of rocking yule, equal parts Paul Westerberg and Bryan Adams. A gritty comment on Christmas commerciality that is definitely this year’s Christmas ear worm.
Will You Turn Up (For Christmas)
Combining spooky surf guitar runs with a sweet melody, Will You Turn Up (For Christmas) is quickly becoming a favorite to accompany holiday decorating at my house. This one wouldn’t sound out of place on the great Phil Spector Lp that is so beloved. Nicely done!
Lisa Mychols & SUPER 8
Lisa Mychols and Paul Ryan (SUPER 8) give us Red Bird, a dreamy winter pop tune full of twinkling bells and floaty, ethereal vocals. Cheerful in all the right ways, it’s a welcome addition to the seasonal songbook. Pretty.
Nick Piunti & The Complicated Men
From Downtime’s promo material; “Sometimes you hear new songs that sound like old songs. Somehow, you’ve heard these songs before – in a good way. They’ve been part of your rock lexicon for eons and you just don’t know how they got there, which radio station you first heard them on, or what year they first emitted from.”
I couldn’t agree more. From the opening chords of “Upper Hand,” I was immediately transported back to my high school years, when I was hearing and discovering hits by Bryan Adams, like “This Time” and “Cuts Like A Knife.” I was bombarded by images of strolling through Lakehurst Mall with my pals, hearing those tunes, and making my way to the music store to find out more about Adams. Picking up his Lp, way back when, I saw that he played a Rickenbacker, like my heroes, The Beatles, did. That Lp went home with me and made me a B.A. fan for life.
I hope I’m not offending Piunti and his mates with the comparison, because in my humble opinion, Adams has always been one of rock’s best songwriters, in fact, for decades now.
Downtime’s overall sound is one of warmth and simplicity of production, which serves the songs well. In a perfect world, “Every High”, “All Over Again,” hell, pretty much every song on this disc, would be riding the Billboard Charts. My fave of the set, however, is the quirky “Never Belonged To Me,” which has played repeatedly in my head since first listen.
The Complicated Men; Jeff Hupp (bass), Ron Vensko (drums), and Kevin Darnall (keys), aren’t in actuality, very complicated at all. They play exactly what each song needs, without getting in the way of Piunti’s gravelly lead vocals. Power pop fans and rock fans alike, are going to devour this like an aged, medium-rare porterhouse. I expect it will be on many year-end best lists, as it will be on mine.
I’ve been watching Robert Baker’s YouTube channel for a couple of years now, and can honestly say that it’s one of my very favorites. While the genre of YouTube guitar-centric shows is a crowded one, Baker is one of the few hosts that is able to create an actual friendship with his viewers. That’s probably the main reason, along with his cheery “How ya doin’ everybody?”, that we keep watching.
His style of guitar instruction is welcoming and optimistic, and he graciously never over, or underestimates, the viewer’s ability. He’s quick to comment “I know you can get this,” or “I had trouble learning this riff, when I first started playing.” He’s the teacher that knows not to yell at you during a critical section of your own learning curve. In our hurry-up society, he’s one of the few people I’ve come across that seems to have endless patience.
As a guitarist, Baker cut his teeth on the rock and metal of the 70’s and ’80’s, and his practical examples of music theory are pretty likely to include a classic Bryan Adams or Poison riff. He excels at making his viewers’ guitar ambitions seem possible, which for amateurs like me, is invaluable.
Baker is a stay-at-home dad, and his occasional interactions with his son, who likes to crash the show, are always good-natured and humorous. His wife drops in now and again, too, and it’s nice to see that they’re all part of a supportive, happy household.
Robert Baker’s channel is perfect viewing for coffee time, which is when I usually tune in. It’s always a pleasant hang, and a great way to start your day, or take an afternoon break. It should come as no surprise that Acacia Guitars aligned themselves with Baker, as someone perfect for representing their small family company with a custom guitar built for him. They must feel the same way that I do, that he’s well-worth having as a friend.