By Alan Haber – Pure Pop Radio
Spins and Reviews | 5.2.18
Michael Carpenter Special:
The Supahip | The Two Sided Face (2018)
Carpenter, Smith and Jones | Petty (2018)
The many, varied hues on the palette from which Michael Carpenter draws to paint his long line of musical masterpieces are particularly plentiful these days. Following on from a rich, vibrant collection recorded with Australian country legend Allan Caswell, and his sterling, melodic work with his band the April Family, Michael has reignited the fires that fuel the Supahip, a duo he formed with Mark Moldre, and joined with angelic voices Abby Smith and Sophie Jones to celebrate the music of the late Tom Petty. The results are magnificent across the board.
The Supahip’s Seize the World, released in 2006, mesmerized with its canny mix of genre-bending numbers and, not surprisingly, begged for a sequel. That second shot at their brass ring has been realized in the form of the duo’s smashing new long player, The Two Sided Face. Embracing rock, pop and country, these songs emerged after days begun with a slate so clean you could eat off of it: Michael and Mark arrived at the studio each morning with nary a note written and left at the end of the day with not only a written song, but one that was also mixed.
This perhaps unorthodox way of working pays huge dividends; the proof is in the grooves crafted by two friends whose shared passions are like two sides of the same coin. These passions give rich texture to songs such as the lively “With the Radio On,” a vaguely country smooth groove mixed with melodic pop convention; the slow burning country toe-tapper “Fourarms,” about needing extra limbs to keep up with the daily traffic of life, and the four-on-the-floor Rolling Stones nod, “Motor,” an Exile on Main Street let-it-all-hang-out workout with resilient slide guitar parts and insistent drumming pushing through the armature. It’s all quite a wonderful thing.
Carpenter, Smith and Jones’ Petty, a sincere and lovely celebration of the music of one of rock’s most magnanimous songwriters and performers, now sadly departed, shares with the Supahip a deep passion for its mission but takes a softer, earthier approach on the way to its destination. Teaming up with angelic songbirds Abby Smith and Sophie Jones as Carpenter, Smith and Jones, Michael plays all of the instruments. The trio’s earthy vocal blend and the perhaps more deliberate pacing in the songs combine to amplify the emotions contained within the lyrics and musical notes for a particularly engaging listen.
“Runnin’ Down a Dream” is recast as a slow, sometimes moody shuffle, a vocal workout bolstered by bracing electric guitars and Michael’s forceful drums. “Don’t Come Around Here No More” finds itself swimming atop a dreamy landscape played out with only nimble electric guitar backing beneath the trio’s emotional vocals (the final harmony stack is a joy to behold).
“Learning to Fly” ascends in ballad form with glorious lead and harmony vocals from Abby and Sophie and Michael’s lyrical guitar playing. The Traveling Wilburys’ “End of the Line,” which appears here as the closing song, just as it did on the first Wilburys album, takes on a singalong gospel tone; handclaps and joyous, freeing vocals abound. Your inclination will be to join in with your own vocals, but resist the temptation and enjoy the work that Carpenter, Smith and Jones have crafted. It’s quite spectacular.
Whether creating original songs or drawing different kinds of emotion from other songwriters’ material, Michael Carpenter, Mark Moldre, Abby Smith and Sophie Jones bring their best to the table. Both The Two Sided Face and Petty are proof positive that this is the case, that we are all rich beyond our wildest dreams with this music in our lives.
Where to Get It: The Supahip’s The Two Sided Face is available in digital form at the Big Radio Records Bandcamp page (the CD will be available around June 1). Purchase the digital download of Carpenter, Smith and Jones’ Petty on their Bandcamp page (the CD will also be available around June 1). Petty’s first single is “Listen to Her Heart.”
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