On Tap takes a look at four local and touring bands each month. If you are interested in being featured, please send your CD along with contact information, including your website and a list of upcoming shows to On Tap Magazine, Attention Four Play: 25 S. Dove St., Alexandria, VA 22314.
Black Dog Prowl
Album: Half Truths and Lies
Just barely a year old, newbies Black Dog Prowl are producing music indicative of a band with far more miles on their career. Their debut album, “Half Truths and Lies,” exemplifies this fact as the group packages screaming guitar riffs, alternating lead vocalists, and door-busting drums into a unique and gripping ten tracks. While the album drips with the grunginess that has come to characterize many D.C. bands, perhaps its strongest point is its diversity. As “Half Truths” moves from the opening action-packed guitar track “Gallows,” (AC/DC comes to mind) into the softer, more apathetic “Step Forth” (think Alice in Chains), then to the fast, hard-hitting “Locked and Loaded,” it takes the listener on a rock n’ roll journey that only disappoints when you realize its over. While the band likely has little desire to create “catchy” tunes, some of the songs could use a bit more production, and for fans of this genre that get off listening to the burning guitar licks of Slash and Jimmy Paige the solos leave something to be desired. Still, the release is solid through and through, and is a spectacular debut for a local band with a long career ahead of them. –Dan Miller
For a guy who just recently quit his day job to cut a CD and pursue his musical dream, Casey – and his eponymous CD – is stunningly good. Armed with an acoustic guitar, a harmonica and a gift for turning a phrase, Casey manages to breathe new life into the rather stale folk genre. Upbeat and propulsive, “Rock Star Voodoo” is a plea to a lover to help him hold on to a fading relationship amidst the swirl of big city dreams. In the typical folk tradition, these are straightforward songs with rather simple arrangements, but Casey’s voice – conveying just the right mix of sincerity and grit – and his effective pacing, is likely to get you bobbing your head or tapping your foot — or both. On “Boy With Guitar,” Casey makes a plaintive case for following his dream. “Our teachers lie when they say you can’t get by on doing what you love,” he sings. Here’s hoping Casey is right. –Michael Coleman
It’s obvious that J.P. Reali really, really loves the blues. A longtime fixture on the DC blues scene, Reali’s soulful guitar and dobro playing has elevated a number of popular local bands. This month, Reali celebrates the release of his second solo album, “Bottle of Blooze,” at the Westover Market Beer Garden in Arlington.”Bottle of Blooze” is especially noteworthy for Reali’snovel approach. He employs musical themes developed by the pre-World War II country blues masters, but infuses this classic musical style with modern lyrical themes. “Bottle of Blooze” eschews the electric flash of the Chicago form and instead relies on simplicity and feel. Reali’s acoustic guitar picking is crystal clear – and at times mesmerizing. If there’s one quibble it’s that his voice sounds a bit too polite to match the grit of his guitar. When Reali sings about drinking “brown liquor” in the morning, you don’t really believe him. He’s more believable moaningabout his lame day job. But that’s OK. In a city where real blues music can be hard to find, Reali is a solid purveyor of the form. And that’s good enough for this blues lover. –Michael Coleman
Rites of Ash
Few bands can pull off that electronic rock and pop well, but if you need a reference of a job well done, look no further than DC-based band Rites of Ash, who spews originality and diversity in their latest album, Like Venom. Eleven tracks of rock meets pop meets electronica all carefully crafted into one unified album, makes this a hit. Reminiscent of Linkin Park and T-Pain (if they had a love child, it would absolutely be Like Venom), Rites of Ash make use of technology to influence and put their sound above the rest. Unique and upbeat, their live show fully supports the energy that you get from Like Venom. Wowing crowds seems effortless and natural for the band whose songs have graced MTV hit shows like “The Real World” and “Pimp My Ride.” Lyrically impressive as well, is a personal favorite track, “Toxic.” “Under the skin she’s more than capable, to make you forget what’s been done. Forever has been so long. Her lips are like venom and the stinger’s left inside, don’t turn your back on her, she’ll lead you on a lie…” You can’t argue with raw and honest lyrics like these. Truly breaking barriers on a local and national level, this album is worth all the hype it gets. –Ashley Estill