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Six Quick-Hit Reviews of Local Albums

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Published February 22, 2023 at 10:00 a.m.


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With the number of music submissions Seven Days receives every week, occasionally some records slip through the cracks. Fortunately, the paper employs an AI-powered chatbot to harass and verbally abuse music editor Chris Farnsworth until he collects all the albums he missed. Hoping to salvage what's left of his dignity from the savage attacks of the bot, he presents six new(ish) Vermont records!

Nick Carter, Fountain Pen

(Self-released, CD, digital)

Nick Carter is in the midst of a second act in life. The Vermont- and Connecticut-based singer-songwriter, who has been playing music since he saw the Beatles perform on "The Ed Sullivan Show" in 1964, spent decades as a music educator. Now solidly into his career as a recording artist, he takes his first foray into contemporary folk music with his new album, Fountain Pen. Channeling the work of folk legends such as Jim Croce and Harry Chapin, Carter writes songs that are equal parts gentle acoustic guitar and evocative, world-weary lyrics.

His new record is no tentative first step. Carter brought in Grammy-nominated producer Seth Glier to man the boards, as well as special guests including Abbie Gardner and Laurie MacAllister of New York folk trio Red Molly and Boston folk-pop singer Ellis Paul.

Key Track: "Arizona Sunset" Why: The country-leaning song serves as a declaration of undying love set to gorgeous harmonies. Where: nickcartersmusic.com

Ryan Osswald, Hum

(Self-released, digital)

Burlington guitarist Ryan Osswald was once part of the city's robust Americana and folk scene, playing with expat Maryse Smith and in the band Cannon Fodder with Paper Castles' Paddy Reagan. He also led his own project, Great Western. In recent years, Osswald has shifted his musical focus, centering on instrumental jazz. He continues that trend on his latest release, the four-song EP Hum.

Osswald brought together a talented trio to back him up, including bassist Alex Hall, keyboardist Michael Hartigan and drummer Dan Ryan. Together, the band forms a tight but still elastic backing unit, laying down smooth grooves beneath Osswald's deft guitar playing and intriguing compositions.

Key Track: "Blues for Kalief" Why: Ryan's virtuoso drum performance underpins a long, moody jam. Where: ryanosswald.bandcamp.com

ILLu, B Side Instrumentals Volume 15

(Equal Eyes Records, digital)

Sometime during the pandemic, I became addicted to listening to YouTube mixes of lo-fi hip-hop. In what has become something of a phenomena, millions of viewers follow channels with such videos these days. The videos typically feature an anime kid with a cat, studying beside a busy city window as chilled-out hip-hop plays softly. To be honest, I was much more in it for the vibes than the actual tunes, which tend to be pretty basic. So imagine my excitement when Vermont hip-hop producer ILLu released his latest collection of instrumental hip-hop jams. Here was a truly inspired mix to let seep into my brain in the late hours.

The cofounder of Burlington record label Equal Eyes Records, ILLu is also one of the most talented producers in the scene. He deftly weaves an assortment of beats and loops, creating a nonstop, head-nodding soundtrack to ... well, anything. Such is the strength of the record that it could be used to score anything from a late-night smoke session to an early morning workout.

Key Track: "Parmigiano" Why: ILLu layers a creaky piano loop over a classic boom-bap beat, perfectly occupying the space between tension and release. Where: equaleyesrecords.com

Stefani Capizzi, Here for a While

(Self-released, CD, digital)

For such a sparsely populated state, Vermont boasts a high number of folk singer-songwriters. I'd love to know what the ratio of folk musicians to average Vermonters is, but hopefully there are enough coffeehouses around for all of them. The latest offering from the robust folk scene is Stefani Capizzi and her new EP, Here for a While.

While there's nothing on Capizzi's six-song EP that deviates from the genre norms or breaks new ground, some tracks bear enough of an emotional edge to let you know Capizzi understands how tough life can get. A recovering alcoholic, Capizzi writes songs full of hope and unflinching reflection. She is also donating 50 percent of all CD sales of Here for a While to the North Central Vermont Recovery Center and Jenna's Promise, a recovery community in Johnson.

Key Track: "Bittersweet Truth" Why: Capizzi's voice sounds raw and warm as she croons over a soft bed of acoustic guitar and piano. Where: capizzimusic.com

Andrew Richards, Andrew Richards

(Self-released, digital)

Burlington native Andrew Richards made the big move to New York City in 2021. The former University of Vermont student hasn't wasted any time turning around a confident, sonically gorgeous self-titled debut LP. A vocalist with a classically smooth tone and subtle, assured delivery, Richards is also an innovative and clever composer.

Backed by drummer Ben Freidkin, bassist SeaJun Kwon and Israeli pianist Moshe Elmakias, Richards presents eight original songs that, while rooted in jazz, show flashes of soul and funk. It's sophisticated, well-crafted music that manages to feel simultaneously like a throwback and utterly modern. The band even throws in a tribute to Richards' home state, covering the classic John Blackburn and Karl Suessdorf tune "Moonlight in Vermont." It's nice to know that even in the concrete jungle of NYC, Richards still has Vermont on his mind.

Key Track: "It's Good to Have a Lover" Why: Richards channels his inner Frank Sinatra, getting playful as he celebrates the art of being a cad. Where: Spotify, Apple Music

The Path/Gone Wrong, Split

(State of Mind Recordings, digital, vinyl)

I love a split EP. A common practice for hardcore, metal and punk bands, split EPs are the heavy music equivalent of getting those Hershey's miniature assorted packs — there's a little something for all headbangers. Take the latest from Vermont bands the Path and Gone Wrong. With the Path, you get pure, screaming hardcore punk full of gargantuan riffs and lyrics like "Wage slaves of the world / Arouse / Do your duty for the cause." Listen to a few of the Path's songs, and you'll be pulling out the guillotine and driving to Elon Musk's house.

Burlington's Gone Wrong are a little more raw, thrashing through their brand of skate punk with aplomb. The two approaches blend like whiskey shots and Miller High Life — beautifully, as long as you're in the mood to fuck shit up.

Key Track: "Haymarket to Stonewall" by the Path Why: In this heaviest song on a record full of punishing heaviness, the lyrics are the real killer: "Lick the boot or eat the sole / The poor will keep killing the poor." Where: gonewrong.bandcamp.com

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