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CD Reviews

New releases from Polish Hill Strangler, Charm & Chain, composer William Thomas McKinley and Brett Staggs


Polish Hill Strangler
Polish Hill Strangler

Angry but fun hardcore punk from the local four-piece featuring members of Don Cab and Father Flamethrower. To-the-point tunes inspired by early SST stuff and Minor Threat, plus lead screamer Ben Strangler sometimes sounds like Choke from Negative FX. Thumbs up.

By Andy Mulkerin

POLISH HILL STRANGLER CD release. 9 p.m. Sat., Aug. 18. Howlers Coyote Cafe, 4509 Liberty Ave., Bloomfield. $5. 412-682-0320


Charm & Chain
Heliacal Rise

Singer/songwriter Laurie Kudis presents eight tracks of soulful and bluesy pop-rock, wearing the influence of Stevie Nicks and Tori Amos on her sleeve. Kudis' vocals croon and sway, providing a good accompaniment to the additional instrumentation backing each song. Heliacal Rise is a suitable nod to singer/songwriters of the 1960s onward.

By Gregg Harrington


William Thomas McKinley, Scott Michal and Nicholas Sackman, composers
(Navona Records)

New Kensington-born William Thomas McKinley has had a varied career, when young playing with dance bands, then studying piano at Carnegie Tech with Johnny Costa, and moving on to play jazz with major talents. For much of his life he’s also been drawn to the romantic sides of classical music, writing deliberately tonal pieces, including Concert Variations for violin, viola and orchestra from 1993, when he in his mid-50s. This often beautiful and lyrical nine-part work also has dramatic and challenging parts. Soloist Karen Dreyfus plays a wonderful, darkly soaring viola, while her husband Glenn Dicterow’s eloquent violin joins in. Younger, Ohio-born-and-bred Scott Michal’s Encomiums (“praises”)is a violin concerto dedicated to Hindemith, J.S. Bach and Prokofiev. Michal channels the Russian’s spiky charm superbly. And there’s a violin and orchestra concertino by likewise younger Englishman Nicholas Sackman, the most modern piece here but, like the others, entirely accessible.  

By Gordon Spencer


Brett Staggs
Rio Grande

Four new songs from one of the city's better straightforward songwriters. This material is more upbeat and twangy than much of his last solo album, but not as rockin' as The Long Time Darlings, his main project. The former Texas resident captures the sounds of the border successfully here.

By Andy Mulkerin

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