Scott Tady: 5 Beaver Valley-Pittsburgh artists bring songs worth a listen

·6 min read

Five cool new releases from local bands and singers to put on your radar:

1. Tiny Wars

Abby Krizner, one of Pittsburgh radio's most popular deejays, also plays a mean guitar.

Behold Krizner's latest high voltage riffage on "Drama Club," the debut release by Tiny Wars.

Describing itself as "the new wave of heavy pop with a rock n' roll backbone," Tiny Wars matches Switzerland-raised singer Susan Pedrazzi with four seasoned Pittsburgh hard-rockers; bassist Aaron Hutzel (Von Dane), guitarist Rocko Maharg (Mother Hawk); drummer Dennis Brown (Motorpsychos) and Krizner, the 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. jock on WXDX-FM, who's also played in the Motorpsychos and with Fist Fight in The Parking Lot.

"Tiny Wars radiates lyrical empowerment, the vulnerability of falling in love, and learning to pick yourself back up again no matter how many tries it takes," touts the band's press kit.

Listening to the group's five-song EP, I hear influences like Blondie and Scandal of '80s "Goodbye to You" and "The Warrior" fame.

Tiny Wars opened a July show at Jergel's Rhythm Grille for '80s New Wave band ABC, impressing The Times' guest reviewer Dan LeRoy who praised Krizner's band for its melodic, "feel-good retro" sound "powered by a punchy, limber rhythm section." As part of that eight-song set, Tiny Wars covered Eddie Money’s “Think I’m In Love."

More:Pop band ABC spoke to and transcended its era at Jergel's

Lead singer Pedrazzi moved from Switzerland to Pittsburgh a few years ago, feeling it was easier to find musicians here who could understand and execute her vision of the '70s and '80s inspired rock and pop she grew up listening to.

"Drama Club" arrives digitally and on cassette Sept. 2.

Catch the album release show Sept. 2 at Spirit in Lawrenceville. First 50 people in the door get free pizza.

2. Dan Bubien

Aliquippa soul and blues stalwart Dan Bubien released this Friday his most adventurous song yet, "Times Like These."

There's a horn-sounding, keyboard-created intro, and vocals ranging from grizzled, Nathaniel Rateliff depths to daunting, Motown-reminiscent heights. The song's emotion and resilience was born from the darkest days of the pandemic.

"What inspired the song was really just sitting in lockdown for all that time with nothing but my family (wife and son) by my side, as we were all going crazy," Bubien said. "It’s a pretty straightforward song about love getting you through hard times. I wrote it during lockdown and played all the parts myself, recorded it and mixed it myself in my basement studio I call 'Mojoland'.

"It definitely started out influenced by St. Paul and the Broken Bones' "Flow With It," as far as drum beat and groove and feel," Bubien said. "Then I had an idea of a big outro/ending where just so much is happening and jamming and playing out at the same time while kind of following a hook horn line.  I wanted to have something big and fun that everyone can jam out to, like a Marcus King thing or what Tedeschi Trucks will do. Also one of my favorite guys Doyle Bramhall II, will do this a lot in his songs.  These guys all are just so soulful and can combine that rocking out thing at the end but maintain their soul and funk.

"As far as mixing it, I like having some character and some dirt on my vocals.  I'm a sucker for an old vintage sound," said Bubien, who this past Wednesday opened a show for the Fabulous Thunderbirds at Jergel's Rhythm Grille.

Bubien soon will release a music video for "Times Like These," and you can count on the new song being spun by 91.3-WYEP-FM's "Rollin' and Tumblin" hosted Saturday nights by Rob O'Friel, an avid supporter of local blues acts.

More:My Favorite Guitar: Dan Bubien

3. Jeff Wiley

For a retirement gift, Jeff Wiley's family bought him studio time.

The Ellwood City singer-songwriter made good use of it, recording a three-song EP, "Rosebud," featuring guest appearances by two of The Clarks − guitarist Rob James and drummer Dave Minarik − plus adjunct Clarks member Noah Minarik (Dave's son) with added guitar.

Wiley's "Catching The Wind" rides a folky breeze; "Start Over" with its sweeping chorus, flirts with yacht rock.

The "Rosebud" title track with its airy, '70s soft-rock/James Taylor feel, does not take its title from the late, great Strip District nightclub, "but I did play at Rosebud's, one of the best-sounding rooms in Pittsburgh," Wiley said.

Catch Wiley and his band Common Ground playing the cozy ShuBrew brewery in Zelienople on Sept. 1 and 15.

You can find the "Rosebud" EP at Spotify, iTunes, Apple Music and YouTube.

Wiley is the father of Jay Wiley, the Ellwood City native who fronted The Hawkeyes.

4. Zack Keim

Stuck in my head lately has been "Canyon" by Zack Keim, a California-folky, lightly psychedelic, heavily hook-y tune the 25-year-old Pittsburgh artist wrote at a personal low-point in 2020, when his band The Nox Boys canceled its West Coast and European tours due to the pandemic.

Breaking up with his longtime girlfriend, who wanted him to become a postman, Keim took a job with Uber Eats, where amid one delivery the song's off-kilter “Can-yonn” phrasing popped into his head.

"Canyon" has earned praise by multiple critics, and Keim has booked an autumn East Coast/Rust Belt tour with an Oct. 7 date at Brillobox in Pittsburgh.

One of the hardest-hustling musicians I've met, I'd like to see Keim book a gig at either of the Ambridge breweries, Altered Genius or Fermata, which have done a great job drawing Pittsburgh artists to Beaver County.

5. Jordan McLaughlin

McLaughlin, a country/Heartland rock singer-songwriter from Hopewell, impresses on his week-old single "Boot Laces" available on Spotify, YouTube and other streamers.

The lyrics are relatable, with a proper measure of vulnerability, painting a picture of a blue-collar man beaten down by a 13-hour work day, but finding immeasurable strength once he's home and getting a hug from his woman.

There's a bit of sexiness that doesn't get cringy, a feat so many contemporary country songs fail to achieve.

"As you reach out to pull me closer/Like boot laces I come undone," McLaughlin sings, a verse later adding "She hasn't changed outta that sundress/The way that it moves puts my will to the test."

Catch McLaughlin acoustic on Oct. 24, at The Grumpy Beaver Pub in Bridgewater.

Jordan McLaughlin of Hopewell Township has released a new single.
Jordan McLaughlin of Hopewell Township has released a new single.

More:Carlos Santana his ol' spectacular self at Star Lake

Scott Tady can be reached at stady@gannett.com.

This article originally appeared on Beaver County Times: Tady: 5 Beaver Valley-Pittsburgh music acts bring songs worth a listen