Monday, January 26, 2009

Tallboy: Mixing Influences To Rock Hard

Oregon's Tallboy may be a new band to most people, but this young band brings a wealth of experience to the table that they rock out each and every night. Most members seem to have a family connection to their beginnings in music. Bassist Angel Alvarez used to watch his brother play and his aunt bought him his first bass when he was 14. Drummer Justin Bullen's grandfather bought him a drum set when he was only 7 years old. Lead guitarist Kevin Kaufman used to watch his dad play when he was growing up and was jealous of his skills. Now eleven years later, it's his dad who is envious of the skills that Kevin possesses. The exception to the family connection would be Vocalist and guitarist Carey Aubuchon who began as a jazz drummer in high school and then moved to guitar and started experimenting with singing.

The guys have been adding more shows so far in 2009 and seem to be on a roll. I asked them what the hardest and best part of their experience would be. Angel said,"The hardest part is having to have a normal job to pay the bills and not just hop on the road and tour like we want to. The best part is definitely finding people to support our dream." Carey responded with, "For me, the hardest part is commitments and family, but the best part about it is feeling like a rock star!"

Upon listening to their cd "No Hindsight For The Blind", it can easily be heard that these four guys are serious about putting their hearts and souls into this. Their style is aggressive , full speed ahead metal but there are also subtle elements that you can pick out from their personal influences. "My influences range from the Police to Killswitch Engage to Breaking Benjamin," said Justin. His bashing of the skins definitely gets your attention from the start and has your head banging with approval. "I would say my influences are Metallica, Death Cab For Cutie, " said Kevin. He definitely supplies some blistering guitar work throughout the cd.

Standout tracks on the cd include "Rearranged", which hooks you in just seconds into it and hs you rocking out in no time. "Insane" is a very high energy song. I think "Glass In Hand" is one of my two fave tracks. It starts out acoustically and then builds it momentum. My other fave is "Ignorance" which is very dark and melodic in the beginning and its intensity seems to build to the chorus. Their sound is definitely influenced by today's sound of such acts as Sevendust and Breaking Benjamin. They are a good mix of old school metal, ala Metallica, along with today's newer edge.

Are there any heroes or idols that they want to play with live? Kevin responded with, "Killswitch Engage definitely! I might have to bring many pairs of underwear. I would be like..."Oh my god, it's Adam D of Killswitch.......instant mess in my pants!"

My last question for the guys was what cd would you want to be stuck on a desert island with? For Angel it was anything by Bullet For My Valentine and Carey said Buddy Rich's Live Album. Justin's pick was "Menos El Eso" by Minus The Bear with Justin's being Killswitch Engage's "As Daylight Dies".

I do hope that I get a chance to see these guys play live soon. The cd is awesome and I recommend it to fans of hard rock and metal. I think their influences allow them to bring a wide range of contributions to their music and it can be heard throughout the cd. Give these hard rocking guys a chance, you will not be disappointed.

Charlotte Sometimes: Words Beyond Her Years

Have you ever felt like an outcast? Have you ever felt like you didn't belong? Did you ever just want to escape? Well then, you can sympathise with VH1's Artist You Outta Know Charlotte Sometimes. Growing up in her hometown of Wall, New Jersey, she felt like the weird one in her school. You know, we all have had that person. Kinda like Alley Sheedy's character Allison in The Breakfast Club. So misunderstood, but deep down, they were just like you and me.

Well, Charlotte did escape through writing and performing. Her name was taken from a children's book and is the name of a boarding student who is magically transported some 40 yeas into the past and into the body of another girl. The book was written in 1969 by Penelope Farmer. The whole premise of the book really caught her attention. The whole idea of escaping into another personality or another person's persona intrigued her.

Charlotte has always been into performing. "I took dance and theater until I was 14. That's when I decided to pick up a guitar and start performing songs about how I was feeling," said Charlotte. The lyrics that poured out of this young woman were far beyond her young age. "My mom used to say that I had a 40 year old woman trapped inside my body!" She drew alot from bad relationships and there was plenty of material to draw upon.

Her debut cd "Waves and The Both Of Us" draws heavy upon relationships and the constant struggle between men and women in these. The lyrics tend to be deep and brooding in parts and somewhat explicit. One tends to wonder what all is going on inside the head of this young woman to be so inspired to write lyrics of such twisted substance. Take the lyrics of "Sweet Valium High" in which she sings of a bad relationship and asks "Do you think of me when she screams your name?" Other songs questioning the different aspects of relationships include the stand out tracks "In Your Apartment" and "Build The Moon".

"I guess I have never really been very good at relationships. I don't think that I have these false expectations, but I know I do have standards that just never seem to work out," said Charlotte. Well, on her cd, she has put all these trials and tribulations to pen and music and has crafted a lesson in relationships 101 that. It may not read like a Harlequin romance novel, but it does prove to be very interesting listening.

So, what does the future hold in store for this blossoming young talent? "I went out on tour with Gavin DeGraw last year and that was alot of fun. I am hoping to go out in maybe February in support of myself." Of course my last question was my stranded on a desert island with one cd question. What would young Charlotte take along for the ride? "Probably Photo Album" by Death Cab For Cutie. I would want to have something to listen to that inspires me."

In today's every changing industry, there seems to be alot of female artists popping up who get compared to Fiona Apple, Sarah McLachlan and Tori Amos and I can see similarities with all three, probably most with Tori Amos who draws on bad past experiences in her music. Charlotte also has a very unique voice that definitely grabs your attention from her first words. I would definitely suggest the cd to everyone, especially those bored with the typical influx of blonde wannabe singers talking about the perils of being pretty while showing off their boobs. Charlotte is very old school in that aspect. She is a very sexy performer, yet she doesn't rely on cheap gimmicks such as overly sexual lyrics or cleavage. Check it out and give it a listen and you to can escape into another world like in Charlotte's favorite book.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Broda: Storytelling 101

Mark Twain. Charles Dickens. Dr. Seuss. All great storytellers who put their thoughts to paper. Lennon and McCartney. James Taylor. Johnny Cash. Also, great storytellers who put their pen to song. It is an art form that is sorely missed in today's music industry. The art of telling a good story. Today's damaged music environment seems to contain three minute adventures into voyeurism, booty calls and how tough it is to be rich and famous. I recently came across a refreshing exception to this rule one cold Friday evening in Martinsville, VA at the Binding Time coffee shop.

I saw a poster advertising a singer by the name of Broda who was to appear there on Friday, January16. The temp never got out of the teens that day and I braved the elements to take a chance on a singer and her acoustic guitar. There was a small crowd gathered in the shop and Broada began her set at 5:30. What proceeded to happen over the next two hours was a soul riching experience in what she calls "Acoustic Americana." Broda sang songs that took you places. Suddenly, it wasn't seventeen degrees outside because you were with her at the county fair at the Battle of the Bands or walking into Hendrick's Store with her. She sang about everything from her dog to her hooptie, which by the way is for sale.

Broda is no ordinary fly by night performer. She is educated in the field of music with a degree in Music Education with a double certification in instrumental and choral tracks. She has performed at Carnegie Hall, the Governor's Mansion and the White House. She was in several bands of different styles after graduation including a southern rock and a funk band before venturing out on her own as a solo artist. I spoke to Broda after her performance that night to learn more about her musical path that she was venturing out on.

"I was trained in classical piano and it was pretty well structured, so it didn't give me the room to experiment. Being in these different bands allowed me to do that. When my last band broke up because of alot of "band drama", I decided then in the Fall of 2006 that I wanted to do this solo," she said. Broda ventured out to coffee shops and eating places and just about anywhere that would let her play her music.

"My influences range from Brahms to Bonnie Raitt to Wynonna Judd to the buttery goodness of Ella Fitzgerald. All four of those artists display so much emotion and heart in their music, that's why they have inspired me. You're right, the art of storytelling is missing today in music," said Broda.

Being with the state that the industry is in today, I asked her how it felt to be a new artists striving to get noticed. "Well, the internet is a blessing and a curse. Ten years ago you couldn't record and put out an independent release like mine but today you can. The problem is that everyone can also do it too. I mean, I even recorded a couple of tracks at home with my handheld digital recorder. I spend my time off now updating all of my online pages, MySpace, Facebook, so that I can keep my fans updated."

Broda is also involved with Indiegrrl, which is an outlet that supports women in the arts whether it's music, art, poetry, whatever form that is out there. It has allowed Broda to meet other artists and find out that there are other women artists who may be struggling with similar issues. The Indiegrrl festival is coming to Spencer, VA on May 30th to the Spencer Penn Center and is a free event that will contains lots of performers of all types of styles.

Broda has just released her first Cd entitled "Spiral Staircase" and it is well worth listening to. The lyrics definitely take you to a place where you feel like you are a part of the story that she is telling. Songs such as the touching and melodic "Hendrick's Store" to the quirky, toe tapper "Five County Fair" have you wanting to go back and listen to them over again because you don't want the escape to end. I dare anyone who listens to the title track to tell me that you cannot relate to the lyrics. My last question was my what if you were stranded on a desert island with only one cd, what would it be question. "It would have to be "No Additives" by my old funk band Grey Sky Sally. Even if I was stranded, I would still be surrounded by my dear friends."

I am glad that I braved the elements that night and got a chance to see Broda perform. She will be bringing her talent back to our area on May 30 at the Indiegrrl festival in the Spencer Penn Center in Spencer,VA from 10:00 am until 7:00pm with many other artists. I encourage everyone to come out no matter what types of music that you like and support the arts. Thanks again to Binding Time for showcasing such a great talent and to Broda for allowing me the time to talk to her. With as many budget cuts that seem to be hitting all aspects of life, it is very important to support the arts. I think we take for granted the joy that we get from books or TV or from music or movies and we need to do all we can to support these artists. I hope to see everyone in Spencer on May 30th, you will not be disappointed.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Alisa Turner: A Voice As Sweet As Syrup

Pancakes and musicians. You would think that they are two totally different entities, but think about it. Remember how excited you used to get when your mom or dad fixed you pancakes as a kid? Doesn't your favorite singer also give you that same kind of feeling? Pancakes come is all types of flavors and with all types of toppings. Singers are the same way. They have different styles and ranges. That brings us to Alisa Turner. This young lady has taken an ordinary food such as pancakes and created an association with it that will satisfy your appetite.

Alisa became a very skillful songwriter at a very early age as a way to deal with pain. "I was hurting alot inside and nothing seemed to help me get it out. I think around 11 or 12 , I started writing as an outlet. It was the only way that I could get out what was going on inside of me. We moved alot when I was young and I remember not feeling good. So, to keep myself stimulated, I would write and use my dreams as an outlet."

She has been through alot of pain in her life. Her mother was very sick when she was a small child and there was some question as to whether or not she was going to make it. Then, she lost her father, who was a pastor for 25 years. Her father is actually the catalyst for her association with pancakes. "Dad use to make pancakes for us on Saturday mornings growing up. It's a special memory that I have held onto. We were very close and it was so hard losing him. I sometimes think that my songwriting came out of my love for God and he gave it to me as a tool to help cope with all this pain."

Today's music industry seems to have alot of strong female persona's and it is hard to find your niche as an artist. It seems that there are always the comparisons to Sara McLachlan or Fiona Apple for an artist like Alisa because of the similarities in songwriting. She does site those women as being influential to her, but her main source is Karen Carpenter, who we know had her own share of suffering throughout her career. Another odd, yet understandable favorite of hers is My Chemical Romance's "The Black Parade" cd. "I wasn't so much into their earlier stuff, but this whole cd just fits together so perfectly and tells such an amazing story. Each song fits together so well with the others."

Alisa books her shows and loves playing live. "The labels want to see you doing it all yourself. Every aspect from advertising to booking to sales. It shows your commitment. House shows are very hard and demanding on me. I try to make as many one on one commitments as I can. The more dedicated you are, the more respect you will gain." Alisa does begin her house shows with a sit down pancake dinner. In all my years and as many concerts that I have been to, this is a first.

My last question for Alisa was if she was stranded on a desert island with only one store bought cd , what would it be? "Oh, without a doubt, the Carpenters Christmas album. I listen to it all the time. I just love Christmas all year long!"

In this industry where female artists are so heavily marketing based on heavy makeup and cleavage, Alisa is truly an inspiring artist with so much to tell. Her childhood may have been filled with enough heartache for an entire city block, but she has used it to tell some of the most touching stories that I have heard in years. Her shows are very intimate and the connection that is made is one that will never be forgotten. Please take the time to get to know this amazing young lady at You and your heart will not be disappointed.