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Ian Thomas Alexy just recently celebrated a birthday, he is a Scorpio born on the Day of the Dead, on November 1. I recently watched Ian play live the other night at Thirsty Pagan Brewery and I found that he indeed has some very solid songs and can hold his own easily as a solo act. Being tight on stage does not necessarily translate into creating a good listening experience on an album. I greatly regret to find things worth mentioning about a local musician’s recording.
Ian who is known for his work with The Hobo Nephews of Uncle 10Frank, along with his brother Teague, has been working with music since he was 13. His sound has a more rock sound to it compared to Teague’s solo work, which is often a more roots/Americana style of music. Ian credits influences such as Neil Young, Bob Dylan and Guns N’ Roses as some of his favorite artists during his youth and this sound resonates in this new album.
I’m truly torn between the songs that are decent with good lyrics overall and the actual recording of this album. The first song, “Day of the Dead,” is very genuine and cool since Ian was born on the “Day of the Dead” and it flows wonderfully with well sung vocals and tight lyrics. It has a nice country jangle to it and his singing and the rhythm acoustic sit nicely.
Approaching this album is tough for me, there are a few things that I hate to say are rough on the album. I did notice that Ian is credited with the production and shared mastering duties on this CD and sometimes that works, but in this case it didn’t cut it in my opinion. Although one can DIY it, and this album did have other ears on it and seemed like it had everything going for it, such as Jim Bartell on the final mix. I don’t know what kind of monitors they were using, but the high end on several song from this album and other aspects are just not where they should be.
On the first track, the lead guitar is way too high in the mix and the percussion on the tom drums either should have been used more through out the song or not at all, in the end, the mix on them didn’t sit right in the first track.
Track three, “What is Mine,” furthers this harshness of the high end being almost overwhelmingly overdone to the point that it’s distorting. This is most notable with the guitar work, percussion (the snare snaps with a cut that is tough to get around) and (it’s weird to say) the handclaps cut far too well through the mix. I’m talki0ng about digital peak, not the grainy and cool tape kind or peak found on albums like Iron Range Outlaw Brigade’s “Backwoods Hellride.” They seriously maxed out on a few things in this song. What I like about the track is the keys and backing vocal tracks. I like that there are some spoken back vocals during a break down, but you can’t really make them out. It should be mentioned that the keys are simple but tastefully done when they appear on this album.On the other hand there is a lot of needless panning going on. “Panning” is shifting the balance from the right or left when listening to an music in stereo. One of my personal favorite examples of panning is in the song “A Day In The Life “ by the Beatles. During the break down at the end of the bridge, it truly adds to the song and is amazing. In this song the lead guitar shifts very stiffly to one way or the other. I think he was going for some depth in the audio but lost it.
Track four, titled “Abalene” is a straight up great song with a waltz beat and with lyrics like “I am just a wanderer and you were just a kid, you’re to young to get in, you used you’re charm and got close to me. Abalene you’re clever you always will be.” The feelings of a Bob Dylan tune with a country mix float through this tune that seems quite genuine and is mixed just fine.
Track five, “September Buzz” is slightly disorienting due to the above mentioned fact of the panning on the this album. Things are mixed pretty well except for the vocals shooting through the left ear to the point that it’s notable. The lead guitar work is also very off center. There seems to be two rhythm tracks, one that is strumming, another slightly more technical., that is fine. The off balance of vocals and lead guitar just makes the song hard to take in for what it was meant to be.
With track six, “Your Chances,” I notice that there is often a use of underlying keys in the mix on most of the tracks and I actually really like it. They are simple, but at no point overdone. There are things that go up and down on this album. Track seven, “Louisa,” is a fantastic blues/rock tune and the mix is pretty good. When it comes to track eight, “Stick Around,” it starts off with a strong layer of reverb effects then cuts back. Yet again the mix of the acoustic rhythm guitar and snare cut through just a little too well. The lyrics are well done however.
My final say on this album is that it is a great effort but not what I’d expect from someone of Ian’s caliber and with the connections that I know that he has. The album suffers from issues with mixing and the decision to pan things in a very unusual way. An over emphasis on the lead guitar when it comes up distracts from the overall songs. The sound of the album is kind of raw in a way that the vocals hang out and have effects that don’t lie well with the mix and that all of the backing instruments could be toned back and mixed differently as well.
I’m not claiming to be a Tom Fabjance, Jake Larson or Ryan Rusch, but for the beginning to pro recording artist, listen to things through a variety of sources. Take it out to the car with a good sound system, then a car with a kind of crappy sound set up. Listen through the best headphones you have, then listen through a crappy pair. Do not rely on studio monitors alone. And by all means see if it holds up on low volume and blasting it. If you can make things sound pretty good through every sound source on hand, then you’ll have something that will be worth listening to. Producing yourself is fine and good but bringing in as many other ears is advisable and don’t take it personally if they say something that could be changed.