By Joel Sparks and Michael Coleman
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. This month’s featued artists are:
WEB: www.danhovey.com/ghz: ALBUM: Morbid Curiosity: SHOW: December 9, at the Harp & Fiddle in Bethesda
GHZ, pronounced “Gigahertz,” also stands for the initials of three veteran area rockers: bassist Scott Giambusso, masterful guitarist Dan Hovey, and drummer John Zidar. All three men boast years as highly in-demand session men; together, the trio plays the music they love, channeling Cream, Hendrix, and other guitar-centered psych rock classics. The new album is all originals but very much in the same style, which Hovey calls “From London 1968 to Washington 2010.” Fans of Joe Satriani, Robert Cray, Stevie Ray Vaughan, and similar guitar heroes should particularly enjoy seeing GHZ do their thing live.
WEB: www.tomoconnormusic.com: ALBUM: Heart, Body & Soul: SHOW: December 10, at The Rookery in Washington, DC (CD release party with full band)
At first glance, it seems Tom O’Connor might just be another participant in a long line of Washington area singer-songwriters. Posing with an acoustic guitar and an earnest look on the cover of his new record, “Heart, Body & Soul,” the young musician from northern Virginia certainly looks the part. But O’Connor has more than slick record packaging going for him. Love songs abound on this record, and O’Connor’s supple voice, crystalline guitar strumming and occasional piano playing make most of them winners. The upbeat song “History” – an ode to a new girlfriend with a history of bad relationship choices – is a nice showcase for O’Connor’s clear, compelling voice. “Gets Away” is a more somber musical journey that laments his loss of a love: “I can’t seem to get things right in love relationships in my life,” O’Connor croons. O’Connor’s writing is solid if sometimes a bit overwrought. If there’s one quibble here, it’s that the young singer-songwriter’s lyrics are so smitten with his girlfriends – the songs are almost all full of rapturous compliments and/or heartfelt apologies for unspecified slights – that the listener might be left wondering if O’Connor’s just too darn nice. A little more bite might do O’Connor’s music some good, but this is a strong disc full of well-crafted songs, nonetheless.
WEB: www.reverbnation.com/LethalPeanut SHOW: December 31, Downtown Countdown New Year’s Eve
Local rock band Lethal Peanut doesn’t have a record yet, but they’re making waves in the Washington, DC music scene. The pop-rock outfit took first place at the recent Band-to-Band Combat competition at Rumors, and a slew of upcoming shows suggest that their brand of good-time rock-n-roll is infectious. Lethal Peanut is a versatile outfit that’s just as capable of pulling off an acoustic, Celtic-tinged ballad (“Man of the Hour”) as it is a bass-heavy, electrified rock jam (“Disposable”). They might even throw covers of Kanye West and Frank Sinatra into their set for good measure. The guys in Lethal Peanut — Nick Fetzer (lead vocals), Jeff Sherman (lead guitar) Bruce Tsai (bass, violin, mandolin), and Steve Meredith (drums) – seem to pride themselves as much on their ability to loosen up a crowd and get a room rocking, as their music. In DC, where the crowds can be notoriously stiff, getting people moving and having fun is a talent that deserves recognition.
WEB: www.brianfranke.com ALBUM: Six Blocks Down. SHOW: December 16, at McGinty’s in Silver Spring, MD
Brian Franke’s brand of upbeat, melodic pop gets the quality production it deserves on his latest album, “Six Blocks Down.” Typically a solo acoustic artist, Franke rounds out his polished sound with drums, electric guitar and even a string section on “Six Blocks Down.” The soaring, briskly-paced rocker “I’m Just Sayin’” conjures fond memories of Barenaked Ladies while “You Got All You Want (Girl)” is a pretty ballad that showcases Franke’s vocal range and ability to convey genuine emotion. Throughout the record, Franke’s crisp, assured guitar playing stands out, and even props up a couple of tracks that suffer from perfunctory songwriting. The closing track – also the title track of “Six Blocks Down” – recently won songwriting awards and it’s easy to see why. Easily the best written song on the disc, “Six Blocks Down,” is an accomplished slice of pop music that showcases Franke’s strong and heartfelt vocals, accomplished arrangements and ability to craft a hook. The entire album represents a strong effort from a talented local artist.