Random Manor “Seattle City Limits” CD EP/LP Review
“Random Manor” is not what I expected at all, and, I was pleasantly surprised upon my first listen.
“Diamond” Don Short is formerly 1/2 of the brilliant team that made up Seattle’s “The Heats.” A very big Seattle band from the early 80’s that I’ve already reviewed here. But now Don’s singin’ a different tune. Much less on the nasal vocals with more on the twang without being corny at all. (Nashville, you may start taking notes here). Don’s new band…”Random Manor,” has a great rockin groove that sounds a little more like Austin, Texas than Seattle, Washington.
“Random Manor” was a three peice group made up of two former members of “The Heats” with Mark Mosholder holding down the bass guitar. Don Short is the lead singer/songwriter/guitarist with “Heat’s” drummer Rick Bourgoin playing drums with his usual restrained flare.
My first introduction to “Random Manor” is through their 2008 release simply titled: “Random Manor”…a 6 song EP/CD. My favorite cut here is: “Hammer Head”, song #3. What a groove! At this point, they were still just a trio. Chunky electric guitar rhythm notes carrying the weight.
Where as recording artist Steve Pearson, (also of “The Heats”) has stayed with the same nasal vocal style as before, Don has moved on to find his own modern country-rock vocal in “Random Manor.” However, Don Short and Steve Pearson still have one thing in common: they are both very talented songwriters in their own right(s). So even though “The Heats” are gone, you can still enjoy both of these recording artists on their own. The truth is, “The Heats” cast a very long shadow over both Don Short and Steve Pearson’s solo careers. Those were some heady days for both Don and Steve in the early 80’s. (MTV even came knocking back when that kind of thing still mattered).
Now it’s on to 2011’s “Big Dog Run” a full LP/CD by “Random Manor.”
The title cut: “Big Dog Run” #5, is sort of a smoldering Southern style Americana roots song. But, directly after that is: “Along For The Ride.” This song is more up tempo and reminds me of “The Eagles” circa: “On The Border.” Also on this full length LP/CD, the trio is joined by two new members: Mark Belaire on keyboards, harmonica and vocals. Ronnie Belaire plays: guitar, mandolin and harmony vocals. Cut #8, “Sinkin Into Stone” has a nice poppy quality to it that doesn’t seem weighed down. Nice keyboards and guitar here as well as the lead and harmony vocals and drums. Song #10 is a nice change of pace with an acoustic guitar and mandolin. Nice tune. The last song on “Big Dog Run” called: “For Awhile” sounds a little like Nashville filler to me…nice piano though. (I’m not sure if adding two new members to the group has added much, or just slowed them down)?
To summarize: I felt the 2008 EP/CD with just the three peice was quite a bit fresher. (Although there were some session players on there on fiddle and steal guitar). The EP, in my opinion, is far superior to the LP/CD. The writing is stronger and the tempos are just more tasty and dare I say…more commercial (in a good way). I think if “Random Manor” goes back and analyzes their own material more…there could be some real potential here. Of course, it’s easier said than done.