LIAM KYLE CAHILL
“Ode to Wisconsin”
★ ★ ★ ☆
With a keen performer’s sensibility, Reno folk rocker Liam Kyle Cahill plunks power into brightly strummed chords and spritely sung lyrics that bring his songs instantly to life.
Three years into his moonlighting minstrel career, the 24-year-old mining geologist has released his first EP: “Ode to Wisconsin.” The four originals showcase Cahill’s mastery of dynamics and hearty repetition of simple riffs and motifs — keys to investing acoustic music with energy and honesty.
In “On My Own,” Cahill’s voice is a homeless busker’s staving off hunger and loneliness. “Keep your coins, cuz what I need is change. Your kind words, my thoughts get rearranged,” he sings over a three-chord progression accented by harmonica, tilting the mood toward hopefulness.
Cahill’s title track salutes the state where, during a summer job, he pushed himself to play out. “Brats and fishing, the nights around the campfires … and lakes that stretch as far as the naked eye could ever see,” he sings over jangly chords. He shifts to earnestly romantic in “Adrienne” (with tinky ukulele) and urgently introspective in “Oh I Know.” A careful student — influences include Dispatch, whose “Hey Hey” he covers — Cahill packs passion into every measure. His music is lively and good.
• Live show: CD-release show is 7:30 p.m. Friday at Studio Fourth, 432 E. Fourth St., Reno. $10 includes CD.
“Neck of the Woods”
★ ★ ★ ☆
On this sharp third studio album, the Los Angeles quartet brings shades of electronica, muscular riffs and vocal variation to the mix. “Woods” is a vast improvement over 2009’s “Swoon” and a sign that they are picking up fresh inspiration.
• Download: “Bloody Mary,” “Busy Bees”
“Sun Midnight Sun”
★ ★ ★ ★
Watkins got her start with ’grassers Nickel Creek and also plays fiddle with The Decemberists. She outshines both acts on her flawless second album, a gorgeous pop masterpiece with a string-player’s sensibility. Even with songs from Dan Wilson, Willie Nelson and Felice and Boudleaux Bryant and guest spots by Fiona Apple and Jackson Browne, Watkins never lets her creativity get in the way of pure musical pleasure.
• Download: “When It Pleases You,” “You’re the One I Love”
“Go Get It”
★ ★ ★ ☆
Sisters Erica and Tina have been delivering faith-inspired positive messages for more than a dozen years. On their seventh album, they offer a pair of new songs and rework previous hits. “Go Get It” is a stirring call to improve your life, and the swinging “Sunday Morning” enthuses about going to church.
• Download: “God in Me”
— By Michael Sion, Special to the Reno Gazette-Journal — Edna Gundersen, USA Today — Brian Mansfield, USA Today — Steve Jones, USA Today