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Not-So-Jive Turkeys

By Mike Breen · December 3rd, 2007 · Spill It

Local duo The Turkeys release their new CD, Every Night's the Same, this Wednesday in conjunction with a show at the Southgate House in Newport. Pals/special guests on the bill include Jake Speed and the Freddies, Rumpke Mountain Boys and Tupelo Honey.

Anyone who has seen Chris Cusentino and Kyle Knapp play acoustically around town knows of their strong vocal precision and songwriting, which combines a variety of Americana influences but doesn't fall into any "Roots" music stereotypes. Every Night's the Same brings those elements to the fore, and the solid, crisp production of the CD makes them even more astounding. But it's the full-band arrangements that help make the album a revelation -- The Turkeys are one of the best Roots music outfits to call Greater Cincinnati home.

Joined by guests like Jake Speed, Harold Kennedy, Paul Patterson and Sylvia Mitchell, The Turkeys' debut is uncluttered, but when called for the tracks are robust with organic goodness like strings, drums and electric guitar. Still, the heart of the album lies in its acoustic soulfulness and the twosome's deft songwriting skills, which recall those of Gram Parsons. Knapp and Cusentino's vocals often combine to deliver the breezy but sturdy, spine-tickling melodies that permeate much of the album. The harmonies are flawless and engaging.

While the duo speaks the language of Americana, they don't get bogged down in any of the rote idioms that many Roots artists cling onto for dear life. There's diversity to the album, as the band tries on different assemblages and genres from track to track.

But there is also a distinct consistency, as the band conjures a sound all its own amidst the traditional elements.

The album kicks off with the Country Rock gem, "Molly and Leroy," which is buoyed by a percolating banjo riff and sweeping rhythms and guided by a memorable, wistful melody, which -- like many of their melodies -- brings to mind a '70s Southern California sunset. There is a "Soft Rock" element to the twosome's melodic prowess. While that once might have been considered a mean thing to say about an artist, today those kind of breezy tunes are making a contemporary comeback (Midlake, Nada Surf, etc.). But just as you get settled into the hypnotic, gauzy glaze, they toss a curve ball like "The Ohio River Took My Baby Away," a shuffling Folk/Bluegrass song sung by Jake Speed.

There is that kind of ear-grabbing back-and-forth throughout the 14-track album. The gorgeous, lithe "These Shaky Hands" is balanced by the bluesy, boozy strut of "Exception to the Rule," while the minimal acoustic-guitar-and-voice-only track "The Jester" is followed by the funky Hendrix-like "Tuesday Night Blues." Even while working within the standard-issue boundaries of Americana, The Turkeys manage some inescapable melodies, which is probably their strongest suit -- bringing something fresh and vibrant to hallowed, beloved musical styles that usually aren't known for progressiveness.

Every Night's the Same is, in a word, remarkable. One of 2007's finest locally-produced CDs, by a long shot. (theturkeys.com)

More Local Notes
· A great new compilation CD for a great cause is available now, the work of a local woman inspired by musicians to make a change. Clifton resident Latria Roberts was so moved by a Bono-heavy TV special about AIDS relief and the impoverished conditions in Africa that she decided to do something about it. The result is Water of Life: A Christmas Gift to Africa, a 10-song holiday-themed album featuring area artists and bands. The proceeds from the sales of the CD go to World Vision, an organization that helps get water to the people of Africa who need it most, and some funds will also go to the Vineyard Church's outreach program in Kenya. Artists contributing a traditional Christmas song to the collection include Odd Man Out, Brian Ferry and Dennis Davis, Katie Reider, Mohenjo Daro, Ashley Peacock, Lucky Spaulding, Minister Mayham, John Daley and Theory Hazit and Wonder Brown. Water of Life is available now at cdbaby.com/cd/wateroflife.

· Indie band Paper Airplane -- which recently released the CD Middlemarch -- is again hosting its annual "John Lennon Show" tour. The regional jaunt features PA and various guests performing Lennon songs and their own material in honor of the slain Beatle's deathiversary (he was killed 27 years ago Dec. 8). Along with stops in Athens, Columbus and Dayton, the show has a Cincinnati date this Saturday at the Northside Tavern. The special guest for the free Cincy show is award-winning Electro Pop duo, The Seedy Seeds. (myspace.com/therealpaperairplane)

CONTACT MIKE BREEN: mbreen(at)citybeat.com


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