EP REVIEW: Smalltime - Smalltime (2010)
By: Cyrus Rhodes
Label: Independent Artist
Genre: Christian Rock, R&B , Hard Rock
Sounds Like: Smalltime, Stryper, Aerosmith, ZZ Top
Technical Grade: 9/10
Weakness: Too much digital compression, reducing the sound quality.
Smalltime are a BIG sounding rock band from Orange County, California, consisting of Danny Van on Lead Vocals and rhythm guitar, Kenny Goorabian on lead guitar and backing vocals, Steve Clayton on bass and backing vocals and Dusty Slaybaugh on drums. In 2010 they launched their five song, self-titled debut E.P. which has already amassed critical acclaim.
The EP sets things off with “You Never Know” an ass-kicking, rocking and rolling tune that sets the tone for the whole E.P. Danny Van’s vocal is a gruff yet sensitive snarl, typical of the American AOR genre and sometimes reminiscent of Jon Bon Jovi or Axl Rose. The song arrangement is simple and straight-forward with rhythm and lead guitars working a tandem powerhouse of sound – sturdily backed by Clayton and Slaybaugh’s tight rhythm section. The second song “Dead on Arrival” mixes country-tinged overdriven lead with more overdriven power-chord sound fattening things up and staying mighty tight with the rhythm section. Again everything is safe and secure, with the band and vocalist holding their own. By the fourth song the pace is slowed slightly for a laid back and more atmospheric vibe. Here, we are treated to some very well balanced harmony vocals delivering the line “Hallelujah, love came down”. The final song “Saving Souls” is laden with hooks and energy. Danny bares his soul for the listener while he sings of being inspired through his church to take up Christian work. He uses biblical iconography (including having a pop at the devil) to restate his mission. “I wanna be on the front-line, saving souls” Musically there is a triumphant feel to the song, which really is the perfect ending to this short and snappy rocking out E.P.
The overall mix is not what I would call outstanding, with the mastering running far too hot for my own personal taste. I much prefer a dynamic mix rather than having the life squeezed out of the music. It is most noticeable with the drums. Whilst you can clearly hear all the elements, the digital compression means that it no longer has any sense of its own space in the mix. Across the CD, this is perhaps the only negative point I can make, as the actual music is well crafted and still highly entertaining.
There is some real solid playing on all of the songs and it is clear that all four of the members are seasoned veterans, but I would’ve liked to hear a splash of the unexpected, or an experimental element just to push the envelope a little. It seems that the band have found their comfort zone and are refusing to move from it. The lyrics are overtly Christian with a largely evangelical message, becoming more and more preachy as your listen to the tracks and so, if Christian AOR is your thing, this CD would sit well within your collection. I wish the band every success in everything they do.