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Skratch Trax 2000 Vol. #2
Artist: Various Artists
Label: Hapi Skratch Records
Time: 16 tracks/69:56 min.

In the shuffling madess runs Hapi Skratch Records with an eclectic compilation from the inspirational Colorado Rockies.  The artists on this disc are a breath of fresh air in a market that tries to fit everyone into predetermined genre boxes.  Hapi Skratch musicians are truly deserving of the name "artist."

Leading off the disc is "Why Me," a grooving stadium rock tune by Eve's Drop. Impressive female lead vocals faintly remind you of Alanis Morissette, but the impressive guitar work ensures no one's going to mistake this for pop.

On "At the Crossroads," Denver rockers Crypto Star prove it's possible to feature horns and funk-reggae bass without becoming neo-ska.  The album track seems overproduced, but I have no doubt the band deserves the label's praise as "one of the best live shows in the region."

The next five songs are Doug Scarborough's "Narrow it Down," a simply constructed acoustic effort; Matthew Moon's "More Than I Can Give," an intelligent blend of adult contemporary and gospel; Jay Road's "Radio Song," a head-bobbing rock tune in the tradition of Roger McGuinn; Carol Frazier's "Life's a Ride," which, though I found out of place even on this album, would make a great showtune (Frazier would have a great future in musicals if she chose that direction for her career); and Keith Rosenhagen's "The Other Side," a catchy acoustic song sporting both a simple pop construction and proficient guitar work, especially in the intro and solo.

Danny Oertli would be a worthy successor to Rich Mullins. Inspirational lyrics and strategically intense harmonies and acoustic guitars make "She Sees Angels" (from Oertli's fourth CD, Hymns and Prayers) as uplifting as anything you'll hear on Christian radio today.

Now we start getting into the real meat of the album. Beth Quist's soothing yet passion-drenched voice leads a progressive Celtic effort called "Monsters." Be sure to keep an eye out for any future releases by this versatile singer who has toured nationally and internationally with Bobby McFerrin.

The album stays on the British Isles with Lalla Rookh's "Geese in the Bog/Get Your Crap Off the Stage" (from their second CD, Do You Want Kilts With That?).  This song starts out fairly simple but gradually increases in complexity as new instruments are introduced into the mix.  I recommend it to anyone who enjoys modern Celtic bands like The Iron Horse or Old Blind Dogs.

Next is Dave Beegle, one of only a handful of guitarists in the world who can trade licks with Phil Keaggy and not embarrass themselves. "Big Fish Rumba," from Beegle's acoustic CD, A Year Closer, is a brilliant prog-Flamenco tune, featuring Beegle's trademark acoustic guitar work accentuated by hand claps and visions of Antonio Banderas. I would have this song on repeat for hours if it weren't for what follows.

Artifact Symphony's "Chivalry is Not Dead" is available, along with Quist's "Monsters," on Beegle's CD, Clear the Tracks. The best description I could come up with for this song is heavy Arabic ambient. Six-string deity Beegle teams up with keyboardist John Penzien (Martha's Wake) and progressive bassist Michael Olson to show the world the type of genius that is sorely lacking in the world of music today.  Artifact Symphony's full-length recording forthcoming in 2001 should be an album you look for on its release
date. Until then, be sure to pick up this compilation disc and/or Clear the Tracks.

Thumbs-up also go to Danny Masters' "The Gods of War." It starts off like he's coming to snuff the rooster before he breaks into a competent blues-influenced guitar rock song and closes with the purest, smoothest tone on his solo.

Despite working in one of the more limiting musical genres, Blinddog Smokin' keeps the creativity alive. "Who Shot John?" is a catchy, no-pretenses, and unmistakenly-blues song with a country-influenced solo and vocals raspier than Janis Joplin after an injection of testosterone and a case of Marlboros.

Jonny Mogambo serves up classic mountain music with a fun Black Crowsey rock n' roll song-"Colorado Golden STP."

No way to slow down. When I first looked at the track-listing and saw this song anchoring the disc, I went straight to it.  The classic Jethro Tull tune, "Locomotive Breath," covered by progressive instrumental giants, Fourth Estate.  What can I say?  If you're familiar with the original song and the expertise of Fourth Estate, you have a good idea what to expect. Pick up this great piece of instrumental rock guitar-on this compilation and/or on Fourth Estate's upcoming archives release, The Dustbuster Demos.

Dan Singleton 11/26/2000





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