Singer/songwriter Danny O’Keefe expresses feelings in a ‘classic, sophisticated manner’

Written by Sabrina Tinsay

Danny O’Keefe, a musical visionary. From his early coffeeshop performances, where he was first noticed as a musician, it is apparent that with O’Keefe’s sweet, soothing, subtle voice will have anyone float in peace. In his latest album In Time one can see that O’Keefe is a multi-talented musician. O’Keefe is someone who takes his time to listen to his heart, and write his soul in chords and lyrics. With “Alone in the Dark” and “Sleep (Anywhere on Earth You Are),” O’Keefe’s variety showcases a range from the keys to strings. His great insights about the world in particular stands out from many musicians. O’Keefe is a musician who has a way of expressing his feelings in a classic, sophisticated manner. It is wonderful to listen to his songs, which uplift the heart and frees the soul.

Sabrina Tinsay: When did you realize that you had a knack for music?

Danny O’Keefe: I’m not sure about “a knack,” but I’ve been moved by music from as far back as I can remember. My parents bought me a small record player of my own and some Burl Ives records when I was four or so and I think that and listening to some of my father’s records, particularly his Leadbelly records, as being seminal influences. I wanted to play the guitar from the time I saw Gene Autry playing one. Didn’t get one in my hands until I was about twenty, though.

Tinsay: Who was your first inspiration in terms of writing songs?

O’Keefe: Like so many others, I’d probably have to list Bob Dylan as a major influence as he came out of the same scene in Minneapolis I was in and we shared many of the same influences. Prior to Dylan, I would say that people like Woody Guthrie, Jimmie Rodgers, and the Carter Family as well as many of the songs in my father’s jazz collection were strong style influences, if not lyrical.

Tinsay: What motivated you to pursue a music career?

O’Keefe: Pure compulsion. I couldn’t stand not to play my guitar and my poetry became lyrics. Friends who had been in bluegrass or folk groups were getting electric instruments in the mid-’60s and I was making records by 1967. It was such a fresh time in music and most of the old rules were being broken. It was probably one of the most fun times to be in music and recording companies were willing to take chances that they hadn’t been willing to previously. There were also still people in the major record companies who listened to and loved music.

Tinsay: Which age did you discover your music ability?

O’Keefe: I think I was always musical, in some sense, but I didn’t start playing and singing seriously until fairly late, in my early twenties. I hadn’t been able to afford a guitar and didn’t really know how to get there. Once I did, largely out of loneliness, I played constantly and, even though I’m self-taught, I was able to cobble together a satisfying style over the years.

Tinsay: In the song “Siamese Friends,” one can hear a mysterious tone to it – what is the story behind your song?

O’Keefe: If you mean an actual tone it’s probably a guitar and amp feeding back at high volume but deep in the distance, like a storm coming. The story is a common one of two people once deeply connected and starting to come apart. Oldest story in the world of lovers.

Published in: on October 12, 2008 at 8:52 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Singer/songwriter Barrie Hart takes listeners on a ‘spiritual, emotional journey’ on new CD

Written by Sabrina Tinsay

In the beginning there was a young girl who learned hymns at church, and now in the 21st century, we have Barrie Hart, who is a passionate musician and a worshipper. Hart’s love and dedication for her savior is apparent in her album titled Whom Shall I Send? Hart takes us in a spiritual, emotional journey, thinning the line of religion. Her heart-wrenching call for devotion seeps through her songs “Bread and Wine,” “Here I Am,” and “I Worship You” calls for one to reminisce amongst one self with the goodness of God. Hart’s music background reflects her variety of her songs, from joy, pain, and glory, the One will always be praised with her passionate heart.

Sabrina Tinsay: Were you always a Christian artists throughout the years; if so, how did you stay strong with your belief that you would get through the perception of worship songs as something that would only be sung in a church?

Barrie Hart: No. My first “professional” work was singing backup for a local blues artist, Sarah Baker. I began singing on a worship team and then leading worship in the ’90s. The team that I led got the opportunity to play at the local Farmer’s Market in San Rafael, California.  We played three sets, 80% worship, with a few secular covers thrown in. It’s a big market, three stages.  We held the biggest crowd.  That’s when I knew.

Tinsay: Do you remember your first composition?

Hart: Yes. My first composition is a song called “How Was I to Know.”

Tinsay: Where was your first performance at?

Hart: My first performance ever was the Warfield Theatre in San Francisco, California singing backup for Sarah Baker.  My personal first outside of church was the San Rafael Farmer’s market.

Tinsay: Your album titled Whom Shall I Send? has honest lyrics; did you always write your songs this way?

Hart: Yes. I don’t know any other way to write. My lyrics come from my experience…my heart…my view. I take great comfort in knowing that He “sees me as I am” and loves me. I know He loves my honesty.

Tinsay: When did you learn that you were going to focus on Christian music primarily?

Hart: I’ve actually done and still do both, but I’ve always known that I’m at my best when I lead worship. It is the best part of me. I believe I am first a worship leader and second a musician.

Published in: on October 10, 2008 at 3:51 pm  Leave a Comment  
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The Crossroads Band play blues-tinged roots rock that is ‘easy to love’

Reviewed by Kyrby Raine

The Crossroads Band/Crossroads

The degree of affection I have for the Crossroads Band is something that is difficult to rate. This is a group that is easy to love, writing and producing blues-tinted roots rockers that not only display prime musicianship but stellar lyricism and friendly, heartfelt vocals. This is the kind of band that you’d see at summer festivals, jamming beneath the heat of the sun for whatever the size of the crowd. Vocalist Tony Merando is almost like a chameleon, shifting tone and style depending on the genre and primary emotion of the tune. On “I’m So Glad,” Merando echoes the crystalline blue-eyed soul of Paul Carrack while his group generates a sizzling Southern-rock groove that Lynyrd Skynyrd would’ve saluted them for.

Guitars are at the heart of the Crossroads Band. They boil to a fiery rhythm on “Free Man,” starting with a gently rocking pulse that gradually increases steam. Man, this group can honestly smoke! “Stranded” is pleasantly engaging Americana in the jangly Wilco vein. Even the relatively mellow numbers like “Oh Mama” and “Time Slips Away” show a band that never sleeps at the wheel.

Published in: on October 9, 2008 at 5:04 am  Leave a Comment  
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Yves Villeneuve’s ‘The Chorus Man’ journeys inward with mesmerizing results

Reviewed by Carson James

Yves Villeneuve/The Chorus Man

Singer/songwriter Yves Villeneuve’s The Chorus Man is a journey inward, taking you inside the deeper recesses of the soul, unafraid to peer into and expose the network of emotional anguish within. I do not want to focus too much on the melancholy nature of The Chorus Man; however, a couple of tracks reveal their sadness so openly that it is easy to peg Villeneuve as an angst-ridden storyteller in the vein of Mark Lanegan of the Screaming Trees (their voices are similar) or Mark Eitzel (without the poetic metaphors).

“I’m Sleeping Single in Love” and “Will She Say Hello Again” are monuments to post-Valentine’s Day dejection. Villeneuve’s bleak delivery offers no irony nor cathartic relief; they are honest explorations of busted relationships. For the less lyrically inclined, Villeneuve’s stark, fuzz-toned guitar playing should be mesmerizing enough, quite addictive on “Insane Rumors” and “See River Flow (North).”

Canadian Angela Siracusa captures essence of country music

Written by Sabrina Tinsay

With her breezy vocals, Angela Siracusa captures the essence of country music. Siracusa’s latest album Drawn to the Flame has songs that can make one dance to their feet, sing along, and listen in complete stillness. In the song “It’s Not About Love,” once can decipher a sense of humanness and raw emotion spilling out into a piece of musical poetry. One song that stands out in Siracusa’s album is the title track, which is the cornerstone of her newest album. It is a great song to listen to during times of self-reflection. Without a doubt, Siracusa’s songs give us an assurance that we are not alone in this world, that a song can always mend a broken heart and make us smile any time of the day no matter where we may be. There is no doubt that Siracusa is a brilliant country musician with a new style.

Sabrina Tinsay: The country-music field is heavily competitive, especially among female artists. If I were a record label, what would you say are the qualities which separate you from the competition?

Angela Siracusa: I’m always open to the opportunity of being signed, especially because labels have superior distribution. I’m Indie right now, enjoying the successes without being signed. The best way to answer your question is what my manager told me when we began working together. He said so many female artists have the talent and the looks but invariably they lack the other qualities. In this business you can only go so far on talent and looks. It’s a tough business and you need the drive, the desire to keep you going when times get rough. You also need a great deal of intelligence and common sense as you will be faced with one career decision after another. If you have all these things coupled with personality, a desire to learn, and a strong work ethic, then you have the chance to rise above the competition. He says I have all these attributes and more, so who am I to argue.

Tinsay: Do you feel you’re at a disadvantage, in terms of being recognized by Nashville, by being based in Canada?

Siracusa: I feel I am at an advantage; they don’t call Nashville the “Music City” without good reason.  How many people get to travel and play in two great countries with amazing country fans in both?  I get to conquer both territories, spending about five months a year in Nashville and the rest in Canada. It’s important to my music business in keeping a strong artistic presence in Nashville. 

Tinsay: Where where you born and raised? Did you grow up in an environment wherein country music was constantly played?

Siracusa: I was born in Toronto, Ontario and raised in Woodbridge, Ontario. Country music was not the music I experienced with my friends but it was one of the major genres celebrated in my house. My mom has a love for country music and we would watch Grand Ole Opry, re-runs of The Tommy Hunter Show and Hee-Haw. Anne Murray, Debbie Boon, Linda Ronstadt and Crystal Gayle were some of my favorite singers. I’d learn their songs, then perform in front of crowds at weddings and parties. I knew early in my life my voice was made for country ballads. 

Tinsay: You did a duet with Walter Egan on his ’70s classic, “Magnet and Steel.” How did that come about?

Siracusa: My manager, Ken Kahler, called his long-time friend Walter Egan and asked him to listen to my demo songs. He then responded in an e-mail that he liked my voice and that he had some songs to suit my tonal quality, which he thought had a Linda Ronstadt tonal quality. I came up with the idea for the duet, and we just asked Walter and he said that he’d love to redo “Magnet and Steel” as a country duet. He co-produced the following songs, “Drawn to the Flame” and “Magnet and Steel.” Walter is so amazing to work with, a brilliant talent and super nice guy as well. 

Tinsay: Is there a large market for country music in Canada?

Siracusa: Indeed! Millions of country fans span across our country. Our CCMA’s and CMT Canada and the thousands of country radio stations and venues deliver the traditional and the new country music to Canadian country fans.

Bob Petrocelli melts hearts, makes feet tap with original blues

Written by Sabrina Tinsay

Bob Petrocelli has it all. It is true that at first glance his twangy, subtle blues style makes a pair of feet tap to the beat and a heart melt with his lyrics. Bob Petrocelli has sheer honesty embedded in his songs. Shanghai Shuffle shows Petrocelli’s experience with blues music. Although “Gulf Coast Blues” may be one of his bluesy songs, Petrocelli brings you back to the roots in “Road Kill.” His musical experiences are apparent in his songs with different styles: In “Shellena’s Rose Tattoo” and “Hey Shellena,” one can differentiate his music style from roots to blues. Petrocelli’s current album takes one into a journey of past companionships,
forgotten memories, and new ways of living.

Sabrina Tinsay: You have chosen Shanghai Shuffle as your album title. How did you come up with this conclusion?

Bob Petrocelli: The title was up in the air until pretty late in the process.  Since there is so much traditional influence in this collection I ultimately decided to try to bring that out.  The title track is done in the style of a lot of blues/R&B/rock instrumental records from the late ’50s/early ’60s period.  I [was] thinking of things like Bill Doggett, Bill Black’s Combo, and a lot of others – just basic shuffle rhythms on a 12-bar progression.

Tinsay: In “Get a Grip (Part 1),” we can feel a sense of rawness to your music; what propelled you to believe you will be making a Part 2 with the same guitar riff?

Petrocelli: We recorded that as one long groove in the studio. I think it came out to about 11 minutes and the rhythm section just played the same pattern but kind of evolved it over the time it was played.  The lead lines, solos, and vocals were overdubbed later on.  Again I went back to the ’50s/’60s for inspiration.  In those days a lot of 45 RPM singles were released with a part 1 and then with part 2 on the flip side.  Also, Tower of Power did something similar on the Back to Oakland album.  They put segments of a piece called “The Oakland Stroke” as the first and last tracks on that album.  I’m glad you pointed out the rawness on the song.  I think a lot of the credit for that goes to Larry Steiner who played clavinet and Dave Clive on drums.  What they played kind of swirled around the constant riff I was playing throughout. 

Tinsay: I like that you are honest in your songs, but one stands out to me the most is “Threw My Love Away.” Who reminds you of that track?

Petrocelli: “Threw My Love Away” is probably the most personal song on the CD.  It’s written about my failed marriage of over 20 years and my feelings of anger towards my ex-wife, who has passed away since the song was written.  A lot of issues were left unresolved and this was my way of purging the anger I had been holding onto for a long time.

Tinsay: How would you define yourself as an artist?

Petrocelli: How would I define myself is a very good question which I really haven’t thought about until now.  I call myself a singer/songwriter/guitarist but I think that’s just the functional description.  I’d like to think of myself as someone who can entertain people and somehow also bring them something of value, a new insight or whatever.  At least that’s the goal.

Tinsay: When did you first start writing your own songs?

Petrocelli: I’ve been writing on and off for many years dating back to the late 60’s but really got serious about two years ago while working on the Three Leg Dogs and Old Skool Cats CD with singer Robert Charels.  I submitted a number of songs for the CD and only “Hey Shellena” made the cut.  I decided I wanted to have my music heard and developed the discipline to write on a regular basis.  That resulted in the Shanghai Shuffle project and that’s where we are today.  I’m currently working on material for the next CD while promoting this one.

Published in: on September 26, 2008 at 4:24 am  Leave a Comment  
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Dianna Cristaldi’s voice is ‘sometimes husky, haunting, sensitive’ on new CD

Reviewed by Brooke Curtis

Dianna Cristaldi/Dianna Cristaldi

You won’t find that many modern country albums with the kind of compellingly personal songwriting and evocative, beautifully crafted music that is on Dianna Cristaldi’s self-titled latest effort. Cristaldi unites folk, roots rock, and the blues into seamless slices of life. Her voice – sometimes husky, haunting, sensitive – doesn’t stay in one gear; it shifts with the varying tones of the song, the up and down emotions of the lyrics. On “I’ve Got Nothing Left,” Cristaldi sounds as if she’s been through the most serious heartache possible and is as drained as the tune admits. “From the hollow, I look up in pain/I am not strong enough/There’s nothing left to gain,” she sings with moving passion.

Many of the tracks here are slow and take repeated spins to grow on you; however, the finest LPs are the ones that reward with multiple spins. “Bye and Bye” is a heartbreaking meditation on dying and acceptance with Cristaldi trading verses with Bethany Cristaldi Wurster. Part Gospel, part country duet, it is the highlight of the whole CD, and like the rest of the record, it will stick with you long after you’ve stopped playing it.

Published in: on September 23, 2008 at 1:55 am  Leave a Comment  
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Compelling storylines illuminate Chad Kichula’s new EP

Reviewed by Carson James

Chad Kichula/World Shaker

Chad Kichula arrives from Canada with a major fixation on Bruce Springsteen, at least on the title song of this three-cut EP. With a voice as heavy and deep as the Boss himself, Kichula narrates a tale of outlaw adventure and individual freedom taken from the Paul Newman classic Cool Hand Luke. Kichula’s bluesy singing gives the track an even more compelling storyline, one that can be appreciated even without the context of the film.

“Gotta Hold on Me” is probably less personal but it is still a catchy B-side even though its lyrics aren’t as substantial as the single’s. “Another Love” is laid back and lush, Suzanne Parovsky’s strings illuminating the hushed atmosphere of Kichula’s romantic longing. Having not heard Kichula’s work before, I don’t know if this EP is a creative evolution from his earlier material or simply a continuation of it. One thing is clear: I will definitely survey his future.

Published in: on September 22, 2008 at 8:28 am  Leave a Comment  
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Molly’s Revenge transcend Celtic label with unspeakably beautiful folk music

Written by Carson James

There is something decidedly different about Molly’s Revenge and their take on Celtic music. Having only heard their album The Western Shore, my observation may not be accurate in summarizing the group’s approach, but there is an unspeakable beauty in their performances that is not often heard within the genre. Many Celtic acts, especially those based in the U.S., are content to simply be as authentic to their roots as possible. Molly’s Revenge push it a step further, leaving listeners in awe with wind-swept, evocative landscapes. For example, as soon as you hear David Brewer’s title cut, you’re already transported to the vast, open fields of Scotland. Pete Howarth (bouzouki, vocals) and Stuart Mason (guitar, mandola, vocals) spoke to Twang Town about their band.

Carson James: Celtic music has always been on the fringes of American pop culture although it has a cult following that continues to grow every year, especially with the massive success of Flogging Molly, which combined a punk aesthetic with the genre. Why do you think the U.S. hasn’t fully embraced Celtic sounds?

Pete Haworth: The first reason that pops into my head is that when most people think of traditional Celtic music, they think of old guys sitting around in a pub, reminiscing over the old days and playing scracthy fiddles.  That type of Celtic music does exist and in fact it’s an important part of the tradition, but it doesn’t project a very cool image for the pop culture. But Celtic music has evolved from that stage into several other sub-genres. Flogging Molly, as you say is the latest example of a punk band playing Celtic melodies, although the Pogues were probably the first ones to make it big in that style. Then there’s the whole Riverdance and Celtic Woman phenomenons which turned Celtic music into theatrical extravaganzas and and made it wildly successful. So while what you might call pure Celtic music hasn’t made it mainstream yet, variations of it definitely have. We fit into a niche of Celtic music that is influenced by the style of music we each grew up with and we’ve all carried some of those influences over to the arrangements and thoughts behind the music we play. I grew up in the ’60s in England, listening to the Beatles and their contemporaries, and that influence affects the way I think about chord sequences, and arrangements.  The other band members all bring their own influences to the table when we arrange our music.  That’s actually one of the great things about the age differences between the band members: we each had a different generation of pop music that influenced our early musical thought, and we each build that into the band’s music.  Hopefully, that combination of pure traditional and more modern influences will help get Celitc music more noticed.

Stuart Mason: For one, the U.S. isn’t fully Celtic, if you look at the demographics. Folk music in general (of which Celtic music is a subset here) is sort of a fringe genre, when compared to pop and rock. But other folk musics are bigger here: bluegrass and delta blues, for example, because they are homegrown sounds. Celtic music is an import that has been given a big boost by the advent of the Internet, which allows for niche sounds to reach their peeps. One might argue that Celtic music is big here, but no longer recognizable: about 100-150 years ago, we morphed it into mountain music and from there into bluegrass and country.

James: Is there a story behind the name Molly’s Revenge?

Haworth: Well, originally no, at least not a very interesting one.  The band formed at short notice for a St. Patrick’s Day gig and we had to come up with a name pretty quickly.  I think it was me that came up with the name. The Molly part came about because one of the other members of the band was in another band with that name it, and I have no idea why I came up with the Revenge part of it! When Stu joined the band, he wrote a song in traditional folk tale style about the story behind the name, and we recorded.  Stu’s a great artist and illustrated the story in comic-book style.  There’s a link on our web site to the comic-book version of the song.  We’ve been asked that question a lot over the years and now we have something interesting to say about it, thanks to Stu!

Mason: I wasn’t in the band when it was named, but I heard tell that the first gig was a St. Pat’s deal that was thrown together on the spur of the moment. At the time there was another band in town with “Molly” 
in the name and hence the reference. Molly gets around, especially in Irish circles. Later I wrote a song that tells the legend of how the spirit of the wind appears to a budding young piper and tries to physically tempt him, but he turns her down, and she takes revenge.  The result is that irish musicians are forever more doomed to play  all night if they sit down at a session. That part is certainly true,  wherever irish music is found… some call it “traddiction.”

James: Is Moira Smiley now a member of the group? How did you meet her?

Haworth: Moira joins us for gigs whenever she’s able.  She’s an amazing performer of many different styles of music and has many eclectic musical interests. Like all highly talented people, she’s much in demand so her time with us is limited.  We wish we could get more of it!  Moira has added a totally new dimension to the band with her great singing and has softened some of our rough edges, so to speak!  She’s an excellent musician and has added a lot of ideas to our arrangements as well as gracing us with her beautiful singing.
Our piper, David, first met Moira when she and David were involved with a touring Celtic Christmas show three or four years ago.  Then we met up with her at a booking conferences that we attended, and she was at with her band VOCO.  One thing led to another, and we ended performing together in our own series of Christmas shows in December 2007. After those shows were over, we decided we had such a great time working with her that we should ask her if she would like to work with us more often.  I still remember the phone call I made to ask her about that – the response was a giggle followed by an immediate yes!  We were all very happy she accepted! We were just about to start our second studio session for The Western Shore CD when that happened.  It caused a mad scramble for us to work out a time when the band, Moira and our producer, John Doyle, could all be available because we really wanted to have her sing a couple of songs for the CD.  I remember picking up John and Moira from separate flights and driving them back over to my house the day before we were due in the studio.  We all sat around at my house that night throwing out song ideas, mostly proposed by Moira.  We finally came up with a couple that we all liked and that John Doyle felt we could work with.  The two songs were “Weave My Love A Garland” and “Youth Inclined To Ramble.”  We’re very happy with the results!

Mason: She’s a part-time member, whenever her busy schedule allows. Right now she’s averaging about half of our gigs. David knew her first, from a Christmas tour, but I met her at a music convention where we 
jammed some tunes with her on accordion. She’s a gentle spirit with the voice of an angel and the hair of a blazing sunset.

James: When and how did Molly’s Revenge form?

Haworth: A local pub, Henflings Tavern, was looking for a band to play on St. Patrick’s Day 2000 and invited a local band to play.  Unfortunately, a couple of members of that band were out of town, but one of the other members, Mark, was a regular attendee at an Irish music session in Santa Cruz that the rest of the original band members attended.  So he suggested that he, David, myself, and the original fourth band member, George, get together and play the gig.  I think we had a week to get together a couple of hours of material.  Fortunately, we all knew a lot of the same tunes and songs from the session so managed to pull it together in time.  I still have a tape of that first gig and regularly threaten the original band members with blackmail! We didn’t really have any thoughts of turning that one gig into an ongoing project and didn’t do any more gigs for a couple of months, but then we all realised we’d had a lot of fun doing that gig and maybe we should try to get more, and Molly’s Revenge was born.Two of the original members left the band along the way but we’re still great friends with them and in fact we had a reunion concert in Santa Cruz last year with them and a couple of other ex band members – it was a lot of fun!

Mason: I wasn’t in the band way back then, but it was in 2000, I think. I’ve been in the band for about five years. They needed a guitarist for tours in Hawaii and China… how could I refuse? The rest is history.

James: Molly’s Revenge have released several records already. How has the band evolved throughout those CDs?

Haworth: Yes, I believe we’ve recorded seven CDs in total although not all of them are still available.  The very first one was pretty much a home recording project done on a four-track tape recorder at my house since we didn’t have any money for studio time.  Contrast that with The Western Shore, the first time we have worked with a producer, and the difference is amazing. I think we’ve always tried to steer clear of the really well-known Irish and Scottish tunes and songs. You won’t hear us playing “Scotland The Brave” or “The Irish Washerwoman” on our CDs!  I think each CD has had its own part in the band’s development, both in terms of musical skills and arrangements, and whatever preferences the band members at the time had.  But the key for us has always been to find great melodies and songs that aren’t quite as well known and there are literally thousands of them in the tradition if you look hard enough.  Some of the band members have also written great songs and tunes over the years and we have started incorporating more of those into our repertoire.  They’re still written very much in the Celtic style but have that modern edge to them.
For The Western Shore, working with John Doyle provided an amazing lift in quality.  Some of us knew John on a casual basis before we went in the studio with him and knew he was an amazing musician but I don’t think any of us were prepared for the whirlwind that hit us that first day in the studio!  We’d sent John mp3 versions of the tunes and arrangements over the previous several months and he had made suggestions back to us by email.  But there’s only so much you can do like that.  In the studio, John would get us to play whatever set of tunes we were about to record  and then immediately come up with amazing improvements to them, some simple, some complicated, but all of them made huge differences to the way the sets turned out. We owe him a huge debt of gratitude for his influence.  There was one arrangement I can vividly remember John coming up with.  We were looking for an ending for the “3’s A Crowd” set, and John came up with this totally astounding sequence of chord changes to back a melody phrase that essentially repeated 14 or 15 times.  The combination was out of this world and when we play it live now it’s just a magnificent, dramatic ending to our concerts.

Mason: When I joined, they already had two studio records out and one live set. Since then, I think our repertoire has moved away from the tried-and-true “chestnuts” and into the realm of obscure pieces (old and new) and original material. We always take that into consideration when choosing material. If it’s a common tune, we try to put our own stamp on it. Having John Doyle producing the new record was a real 
shot in the arm in terms of our arrangements and quality control. He’s nothing less than a musical genius. On every piece, he seemed to  know exactly what was needed. Our regular fans have told us, having 
him on the team really raised the bar on The Western Shore.

Published in: on September 18, 2008 at 8:25 am  Leave a Comment  
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Side F/X spices pop/rock grooves with helpings from the blues, country, and funk

Reviewed by Brooke Curtis

Side F/X/Contradictions

Major-label tastemakers would probably have a headache of a time trying to pigeonhole Side F/X. Here we have a fairly straightforward pop/rock group that spices their grooves with helpings from the blues, country, funk, jazz, reggae, and even New Wave. A decade ago, when musicians were still expected to find a single unifying sound and stick to it, Side F/X would’ve gotten the same three-letter grade and question mark: WTF? However, times have changed, and the creation of the iPod is making the record industry, whether they like it or not, realize that most people do not restrict themselves to one form of music.

Side F/X take the plunge, liberating themselves from any stylistic shackles, even in the same track. On “My Hero,” Side F/X stitch together light funk, reggae, and ’70s Adult Contemporary; in “Her Escape,” Side F/X marry jazz and blues, letting sweaty sax glide across sizzling Robert Cray licks; the slow, emotionally evocative “Come a Little Closer” contrasts AOR riffs with moving piano. On paper, it reads like a car crash, but when you listen to it all, it is smooth sailing. There isn’t a wasted moment here; the nine cuts that populate Contradictions express real feeling with ambitious musicianship, blending together with ease and excitement.

Published in: on September 15, 2008 at 4:54 am  Leave a Comment  
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