Kevin Longdenkevin-longden
By Way of Avalon

His face may be familiar to locals: Moorpark singer-songwriter-guitarist Kevin Longden has played clubs, concert festivals, wineries and fundraisers across the Conejo Valley. Now, Longden delivers a five-song EP rallying his compositional skills, vocal prowess and, yes, blues-y guitar solos. Longden’s default vocal style is reminiscent of Cat Stevens or Jim Croce, as evinced on the Celtic folk stylings of “No Better Man” and the verses of “Can’t Stand Alone.” Opener “Siesta Samba” is a pure, vocals-free instrumental showcasing Longden’s Spanish guitar; not a comment on his playing, but it’s arguably the album’s most unnecessary cut. Things really begin with “Can’t Stand Alone,” the second and best track. This is Longden at his most original; a twisty ditty with an ethereal post-chorus part and a scorching, ZZ Top-like blues guitar tail that even gets a little jazzy with a keyboard solo late in the song. “Lockin’ Up the Doors” is a no-nonsense, Carl Perkins-tinged, roof-raising blues burner with verse lyrics embracing the titular theme, climaxing, “But there’s one thing you should know, I’m gonna be lockin’ up all the doors.” “Lockin’” provides an excuse for Longden to make his guitar sing the blues, paving the way for a white-hot harmonica solo. Not as compelling is the title track, an easy-listening love song with symphonic production, requisite guitar solo and backing voices (including a child’s). By Way of Avalon has a demo quality. These five songs are too busy showing off Longden’s genre diversity when they should be working together more cohesively.—Michael Aushenker

Available on iTunes. For more information go to http://kevinlongden.com/

Mitch King 1455902707_Mitch_King__Live_in_55_Cover_Design_c_REV
“Live in 55”

If the musician’s name and EP’s title seem deliberate, that’s intentional: Mitch King, as in “King of Rock ’n’ Roll”; 55 evokes the year Elvis Presley first topped the charts with “I Forgot to Remember to Forget,” opening the floodgates within two years for “Heartbreak Hotel,” “Hound Dog,” “Blue Suede Shoes” and “Jailhouse Rock.” King, who usually sings covers for the 1950s tribute band Rock Cats Rock, pays homage here to Presley and the epoch with cleverly titled originals such as “Prison Break,” “Lonerman” and (my favorite) “Bugsy Goes to Vegas.” The “Bugsy” ditty charms your pants off, thanks to Marco Perez’s soft-shuffling drums and a big payoff of a chorus delivery (“Bugsy gooooes to Vaaaaaay-gas”). “Lonerman” swings, its lunar glow cast from King’s melancholy, moon-baying Elvis vocal. Title track delivers a long, nuanced guitar solo. “Prison Break” is as perfect a pseudo-Presley as you’ll find short of Freddie Mercury’s “Crazy Little Thing Called Love.” King belts it out in his best Presley baritone as Ben Buttner’s rollicking lead guitar captures that twangy, excitable Sun Records sound with massive era adoration; a straight-up “Mystery Train”-type burner that could easily float atop a Jim Jarmusch film soundtrack. King recorded this live without overdubs at Memphis’s Sun Studios (home to Presley, Johnny Cash and Carl Perkins). So is Live unabashedly retro? Derivative? Cliché? Yeah, yeah and yeah and so what? It’s also fun, unpretentious rock-a-billy straight from the heart . . . and if your heart for classic RnR has (like Elvis) already left the building, just look elsewhere. —Michael Aushenker

Available on iTunes and at www.reverbnation.com/mitchwking