“Shadow Wolf” by Spirit Drive
This is the first entirely instrumental release from Concord’s Spirit Drive. Written 20 years ago, the resurrected EP inspired by Joe Satriani, Eric Johnson and other rock guitar soloists of the late ’80s and early ’90s almost never saw the light of day.
“It was a personal passion project that I didn’t think anyone would be interested in,” says Xavier Guerrero of Spirit Drive. “The release from this December is a totally redone performance.”
“Shadow Wolf” offers a range of mood. Halfway into the EP, “Hours Flying By” slows the pace down with a contemplative bass guitar piece, emulating the anxious feeling of watching a clock tick away. Listeners might connect with the idea of time passing or feel a sense of journey across the half-hour listen, which is part of what Guerrero hoped to express without words.
“The wind – and the freedom to follow it – is a conceptual theme that appears throughout,” he notes.
Spirit Drive’s other musical offerings range from experimental rock to punk rock, new wave and reggae. Guerrero is involved in a number of local music projects, including The UnOriginals, The Concordians, The Dream-Tellers, Dueling Guitars and O-no. Most recently, he’s collaborated with Concord’s R&B group RiGht Proper.
“Fantasy Inventions” by Nicholas Lyon-Wright
“In an age of everyone wanting things instantly, I really wanted to make the best quality album I could make. It took me several years and I probably spent too long on it, but I really tried to combine all my favorite elements of music as best I could,” says Lyon-Wright, who grew up in Concord.
Rich vocal harmonies dominate the 11-track album, loudly demonstrating one component of the clear influence the Beatles had on this Berkeley music teacher. It’s smartly composed – almost as if it were made for musicians – but remains accessible to those who don’t live in the world of music academia. Not everyone will notice the unique changes and complicated harmonies because, frankly, it’s all pulled off so well.
“Exceptional Goblins” by Ian Cowell
Anyone who grew up playing video games in the ’80s or ’90s would likely agree that few pieces of music have the ability to get stuck in your head quite like that of your favorite video game. This was the driving inspiration for Rodeo musician Cowell’s first full-length album.
The 45-minute LP offers 12 tracks of reimagined songs from popular video games of yesteryear. Like the original versions, Cowell assembles much of the music by way of synthesizer work. The Walnut Creek native then adds some of his own guitar work, as well as some guest performances on saxophone, violin, organ and more.
“(Exceptional Goblins) is a collection of tracks that have really stuck with me. They span across a good decade of my youth, when these were heavy earworms. They definitely formed a big piece of my musical taste. The more time I’ve spent in the video game music community, the more it made me want to put my twist on this big part of my artistic foundation,” shares Cowell, who reminds us that returning to our roots, no matter what they may be, ultimately feels right.
“The music that makes us, regardless of where it originates, never truly leaves us, and sometimes it feels good to come home.”
“Coast to Coast” by The UnConcord
Forward motion is the driving theme across the debut album from The UnConcord. Its title, “Coast to Coast”, is semi-autobiographical in that it references frontman Warren Dreher’s cross-country journey, when he found himself “on a Greyhound Bus in 1978 from Providence to San Francisco with two guitars and never looked back.”
The Concord-based folk quartet, anchored by Dreher and Mark Thompson, had originally formed in 2015 and has seen a number of personnel changes over the years. In 2018, Robin Heinmann and Marla Parada joined, and The UnConcord had found their sound. “They brought new voices and music to us and, pretty quickly, we realized we had to get our music on a CD,” says Dreher.
“Coast to Coast” features a number of original tunes ranging from country ballads to blues boogies, as well as some familiar covers including John Prine’s “Angel from Montgomery” and the Fleetwood Mac classic “Landslide”. Expect guitar, piano, bass, and vocals across the mostly acoustic album. The cover art is an original painting by Dreher. “Coast to Coast” was recorded at Modern Tone Recording in Lafayette.
To discover more recent releases, visit ConcordRockCity.com.
Contact Dave Hughes at MrDaveHughes@gmail.com.
Dave Hughes is a local music advocate with an extensive network of independent artists. He produces and hosts a local music program on KVHS called The Beat of Diablo, every Sunday at 7:00 PM on 90.5 FM. Dave also catalogs local music releases at ConcordRockCity.com.