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.