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CD REVIEW: Rainstick Cowbell - Hand over the Heart

by: Cyrus Rhodes



"amazing artistic perspective"




Artist: Rainstick Cowbell
Album: Hand over the Heart
Label: Independent Artist

Genre: Alternative-Folk, Slop Folk Singer Songwriter
Sounds Like: Blind Melon, David Bowie, Bob Dylan, John Lennon, Pixies, R.E.M., Smashing Pumpkins
Technical Grade: 7/10
Production/Musicianship Grade: 7/10
Commercial Value: 6/10
Overall Talent Level: 7/10
Songwriting Skills: 7/10
Performance Skill: 6/10
Best Songs: How I want to be Among You, History of the Ostrogoth’s and what it means to us know, How I want to be Among You, “The way Lies Madness, Not Meant for People
Weakness: More instrumentation, more solos, no barcode, no release date, winded songs



(PORLAND, OR) Drawing from the same deeply emotional well as past recordings, with passion-driven acoustic riffs and distinctly melodic voice (“an adolescent/androgynous voice that almost merits ‘freak’ status when you consider how much it belies his hairy countenance,” Terrascope) the new album explores more sonically diverse territory. Expanded instrumentation and guest musicians delve into twisting tales—sometimes fuming, sometimes funny, and always furious—of betrayed friendship, international atrocity, and genital abnormality. His latest CD entitled “Hand over the Heart” was released in 2014.


The CD briskly takes flight with “Uncle Merv comes home to try to save the Farm” a soothing acoustic intro piece that gradually builds into a passionate rock ballad complete with catchy vocal melody and a grand slam chorus. This intro track sets the tone rather well for this CD, with its eccentric unplugged feel and passionate musical vibe. Track 2 “The Perils of Patriotism” dishes out yet another impressive track with its intimate and unplugged musical setting, heartfelt vocal melody from Rainstick Cowbell and infectious vocal persona. Track 3 “About Knowledge” serves up yet another interesting track with hypnotic lyrical content, strong melody and impressive vocal emotions from Rainstick Cowbell. As the CD slowly unfolds I can hear many musical influences reminiscent of classic Blind Mellon, Pixies, R.E.M., Smashing Pumpkins and even a dash of Bob Dylan to John Lennon. I would classify this music as unplugged acoustic alt rock, with a slight aftertaste of alternative folk and sadcore. The songs themselves are addictive, and interesting, complete with passionate and powerful subject matter. The musicianship (guitar and voice) are pretty solid across the board. Rainstick Cowbell is really putting it out there and letting it all hang out musically. My hats goes out to artists like Rainstick Cowbell who have the courage to let it all hang out musically, and let the chips fall where they may. He writes and plays his parts very consistently and passionately. Besides the acoustic guitar and vocals you will also notice sporadic sound effects and sonic touches along the way layered within the music. Equally as impressive is the vocal presence of Rainstick Cowbell takes many vocal risks throughout the CD indicating to me a strong, confident and infectious vocal ability. His unique voice sounds in the vein of Shannon Hoon (Blind Melon) and Billy Corgan (Smashing Pumpkins). If Billy Corgan released an unplugged acoustic CD it would probably sound a lot like this. All songs are short and sweet musical experiences, never too winded, never to short. From hypnotic “From the West, Breath of Zephyr” to my personal favorite “History of the Ostrogoth’s and what it means to us know” to my favorite  “How I want to be Among You” to eccentric “coming over for the Perfect Kiss” to striking “The way Lies Madness, Not Meant for People” this CD has something for just about everyone. The CD ends with Track 11 “Some Things we can say about but only to ourselves” the perfect finale statement for a CD of this caliber.


Rain stick Cowbell needs to bring in more instrumentation to the table. This can be done without losing his conservative Alternative Folk musical format or foundation. Things like Harmonica, Kick Drum, and Tambourine would add more variety to the catalog and he could even play these instruments live while playing guitar. I wish I heard more solo guitar segments throughout the CD. There’s no barcode on the flipside on the CD indicating to me a retail non-compatibility. All songs over 4 minutes tend to drag you to the finish line.


In close "Hand over the Heart" by Rain stick Cowbell Christmas is a highly original and compelling musical production from start to finish. It’s strong suit – its amazing artistic perspective one gets from Rainstick Cowbell.  The more I delved into the lyric sheet the more I got him and his music. The songs are extremely melodic, passionate, and somewhat eccentric yet powerful with real and entertaining subject matter. The songs are short and sweet musical experiences, each one possessing a unique personality, flair, & signature groove. Last but not least Rainstick Cowbell has an amazing voice and Is an extremely capable songwriter and live performer.


Cyrus Rhodes