COMUSIC REVIEW: Jack Grelle – self titled CD

Jack Grelle lives in one of the more interesting dualities in the world of Columbia, MO’s music scene. On one front is his footing in punk and hardcore, having been both the drummer for Bookmobile and the male vocalist in Task Force. However, what is slightly less known, is his foray into folk and country music that has occurred in tandem with his work in both bands, first under the pseudonym Javelin Track but eventually under his own name. After several years of intimate shows in houses and a couple of tours, this side of his work has finally been caught on disc.

On Jack Grelle’s self titled solo debut, he takes a stripped down approach in these tales of drifting and traveling delivered with a feel that’s part old timey yet also moody and relevant. Built around his acoustic guitar work and vocals, there’s a lonesome feeling on some of these tracks (“Jack’s Blouse,” “Troubled Mind”), while others use a minimal approach with some occasional banjo, fiddle, and some backup vocals to create a sound that both longs for connection while carrying on within its own space. Whether it’s a traveling song of sorts (“Don’t Follow a Line”) or a catchy live favorite that fans will recognize instantly (“Talkin’ Pocatello Blues”) Grelle and company manages to create audio tales of life, struggle, longing, and travel in its ups and downs that, while staying traditional in nature, seems way more current than the slick twanged up pop too many try and pass off as country music these days.

Jack Grelle isn’t a CD that will be everyone’s cup of tea. The stripped down sound and diverse subject matter will likely alienate those who just want some love songs or a simple aural wallpaper. However, for listeners willing to take the risk it does provide a listen that’s worth going to the store (or checking out his bandcamp page) to hear.

COMUSIC REVIEW – Neatly Knotted – “Sore Throat City” EP

One of the benefits of life in a college town is the amount of creativity that doesn’t necessarily exist in a lot of other places. This is especially true musically where, while not commonly known, there are a lot of things that lie underneath the surface that make you curious. Coming across this cassette is one such incident. Yes, you read that right; I said cassette.

Neatly Knotted is the brainchild of local musician, artist, and (in the interest of full disclosure) COMO Collective contributor Ben Chlapek. Using just a couple keyboards (largely organ, but there seem to be some piano on occasion as well), Chlapek creates lo-fi dark pop/psychedelia that can seem as comfortable along indie music circles as with the subgenres he draws from. Kicking off with “Around and Down,” there is a hint of melancholy here in these personal tales that could be in part due to the format, but seems to hint of the lo-fi nature of the material. Hinting at such topics as lack of money, surviving, friendship, and the like Neatly Knotted’s music has a minimalist approach that enhances the often moody nature of the music. This culminates in the EP’s closer “White Star,” an instrumental that has to be heard to truly understand it (I don’t think a review can really explain it).

Yes, Neatly Knotted’s debut EP isn’t for everyone. Some people will be put off by the lo-fi nature of the music (recorded on a 4 track cassette deck). However, this EP takes advantage of the medium’s limitations and makes it work for the music in a way that digital audio workstations and software that can allow recording hundreds of track wouldn’t. Only 75 copies of the cassette exist. However, during the writing of this review, I learned that there is a digital version at the Yards & Gods blog where a download is also available (for those who either can’t get a cassette or just prefer the convenience of digital). I need to see him play live one of these days.