Self-Release – 2014
12 tracks; 54 minutes
From Sacramento, California, Val Starr and her band The Rockets’ second CD consists of entirely original material, all written by Val herself. The band is Val on lead vocals and rhythm guitar, Val’s partner JohnE Sandwich on bass, Dale Darby on lead guitar, Russ Skarsten on keys and Paul Farman on drums. A number of guests add to the blend: Tim White and ‘Zot’ sax, John Norron keys, Tim Barron harp and slide guitar, Horacio Socarras congas, Michael Harris backing vocals and John Bush harp.
There is a mix of styles here and some decent playing, notably from Dale on guitar. Most of the material is rock-blues, the lyrics mainly about relationships. Val’s voice is probably best suited to the more upbeat songs and the following cuts are the pick of the bunch for this reviewer:
Track 2 “Soul Mate”: Val sings of her true love and how fortunate she is to have found her mate for life. Zot’s sax adds depth to the arrangement and Dale supplies a fine solo.
Track 9 “Chardonnay”: Val is at home, waiting for her guy’s return (apparently not an unusual occurrence). In such circumstances she turns to another good friend – a bottle of wine – though she would far prefer her guy home. Still, with no better alternative… The arrangement is fun with Tim’s sax honking away over lively piano on a fast shuffle into which Dale immediately throws himself in three short but sweet solos. A large group of friends ‘The Chardonettes’ add background vocals to enhance the party feel.
Track 11 “That’s My Advice”: “I’ve told you once, I’ve told you twice, take my love, that’s my advice” sings Val on this uptempo rocker. Tim’s harp is an effective addition to the band’s sound, along with Dale’s rock and roll guitar and John Noxon’s swirling organ.
Track 12: a real rocker to close the album, Val tells us that there is a new sensation – the “California Blues” – and the band shows us what that is all about with pumping piano, rocking guitar and harp.
Whether this one will ‘rocket’ to the top remains to be seen but all credit to Val for her efforts here. It is always good to hear bands producing their own material.