Annika Fehling by Hakan Lyttkens hi res

            Annika Fehling in concert photo by Håkan Lyttkens Foto, protected by copyright © All Rights Reserved

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Janiva Magness Is The Original

Janiva Magness cover art for front pageJust after returning from her Yoga class Blues singer-songwriter and musician Janiva Magness seemed relaxed and eager to talk about her new album Original and her memoir, which is also being written. It was eight years ago that this writer first met the multiple Contemporary Blues Female Artist of the Year award winner in Calgary, Alberta, Canada when she sat down before one of her concerts and she was gracious enough to consent to an interview. Fast forward to 2014 and Janiva Magness is just as accessible as she was then, although one senses that she has grown even more comfortable in her own skin and the album Original may be her best recording yet. Seven of the eleven songs that comprise Original, Magness had a hand in writing.

When it came time to write the songs for Original and to head into the studio to record them, she turned to longtime friend, writer/musician/producer Dave Darling, who has worked with Stray Cats, Brian Setzer, Mötley Crüe’s Nikki Sixx and Glen Campbell. When it came to write her memoir Pulitzer Prize nominated author Gary Delsohn came onboard as a ghost writer.

The album opens with the beautiful Darling / Magness song “Let Me Breathe,” about a love now departed and the expression of the wish for a second chance. There is the scene of one final disagreement and watching the one you love walk right out the door. It is about when what just happened so overwhelms you that even to breathe hurts and you wish for one more chance, a chance that never comes. It is the fear that grips you when you realize that for the last time the sun has set on the relationship.

“This is how it works generally, Dave calls me up and says, come on we’ve got to work on songs. I say okay. I get out there and he says, check this out, I’ve got this and then he will play me something that he started or he will play me music with some lyric, but an incomplete lyric or he’ll just show me a lyric and he will say finish this  Read More

Bruce Robison and Kelly Willis

Bruce Robison Photo for front pageWhen Riveting Riffs Magazine spoke to Austin, Texas singer-songwriter-musician Bruce Robison at the beginning of July (2014) he and his wife singer-songwriter Kelly Willis had just returned from a tour of the mid-west United States in support of their new duo album Our Year, which was released on May 27 th. It is the second album they have released together, the followup to Cheater’s Game which hit the airwaves in 2013.

“We have been going to some of these cities for a long, long time and we have a real background with these cities. We don’t travel all of the time, we just travel selectively and so we try and make it to good spots, to good clubs and with good people. We were definitely able to do that on the last couple of trips. It has been a great summer so far.

Honestly it has been a process (working out tour arrangements when you have four children) which encapsulates these two records. Maybe three years ago when we were just starting to think about working together, we decided the way that we needed to travel, mostly for finanical sake was just Kelly and me and just a standup base and a steel guitar (as the only other musicians). That was really out of necessity.  Then this odd thing happened when we were playing those shows it took the music back so much and our vocals so much to the forefront that it brought the crowd way more into the show, because the band wasn’t loud. The whole thing really set the tone and we were like man this is fun. When we were going out there we were, we can’t afford to bring the drummer and the keys, but it was amazing. It brought the music and the songs back right to this harmonizing and telling a story, which is really where I think the best part of our music lives and listening to Kelly sing. That has made all of this a lot easier and very pleasant. It ended up being the thread that we followed for the recordings on both of these albums,” says Robison. Read More

Rock Singer Cherie Currie In Concert

Cherie Currie Photo by John Hancock copyright 2014

 Cherie Currie in concert Photo by John Hancock Photography
Photo protected by copyright © All Rights Reserved

Katie Cole - Lay It All Down

Katie Cole 2014 front pageLay It All Down is the new album from Australian singer-songwriter-musician Katie Cole, who has made Los Angeles her home for the past three and one-half years. With Howard Willing (Smashing Pumpkins, Kris Kristofferson, Glen Campbell) at the helm as the producer and with an outstanding cast of musicians that includes drummer Aaron Sterling (John Mayer, Natasha Bendingfield), electric guitarist Time Pierce (Faith Hill, Alanis, Jason Mraz), pianist Roger Manning Jr. (Jellyfish), Gary Clark and Lenka’s keyboardist and pianist Zac Rae, and bassist Sean Hurley (John Mayer, Vertical Horizon), this is Katie Cole’s best album to date. Victor Indrizzo drummer for Sheryl Crow and guitarist Lyle Workman also appear on the recording. Katie Cole played the acoustic guitar parts and she played some electric guitar on the song “Crash Landing.” Oh and did we happen to mention that Kris Kristofferson stopped by to lend his vocals to the mid-tempo ballad “Penelope,” that chronicles the life of a performing artist. “Hearts Don’t Bend,” an outstanding light Rock tune whose chorus “Didn’t anybody tell you  / It’s more than I could take  / Didn’t anybody mention / Hearts Don’t bend, they break,” clearly defines the theme and the romantic “We Started A Fire,” are other stellar songs featured on this album.

Katie Cole says, “On the recording I have some incredible “A” list musicians that my producer managed to reach out to. That is one of the perks of having somebody that is really in the business.  It’s not just getting great players, it’s getting the right players for the right songs and that can make a huge difference as far as how a song translates. Sometimes when I am sent a list of musicians that my producer (Howard Willing) is thinking about hiring, I end up Google stalking people (she laughs) and I find out all of the credits  Read More

Jane Bach - Nashville Songwriter

 Jane Bach Photo for front page“I obviously was not raised on Country music, but in the late seventies, I guess it was during the urban cowboy days when Country music became a little bit more Popish in its orientation and I was listening to the radio and I thought I can do that. I had been writing songs since I was a child and I knew I could do that.  One thing led to another and I went to a NSAI (Nashville Songwriters Association International) workshop in New York. I went to a few of those and then I decided that I needed to go down to Nashville to check it out. I went down for a NSAI weekend and the rest just kind of followed. I moved to Nashville in 1982 and I just started writing. I knew how to write, but I thought the best thing for me to do was to learn the craft. I needed to learn how to write commercially and I was very fortunate to meet some wonderful people. My dearest and oldest friend is Becky Hobbs. Becky and I began writing together and it just kind of worked from there.

I got a publishing deal very quickly within three months after moving here.  Three months after that I got my first cut and it was by Tammy Wynette. It was a song called “After Dark,” and it was just one of those where do I go from here moments? It was wonderful and it was great. It was a process and not only is the writing a process, but the building of a career is a process as well.  It has been a wonderful journey and I have been very, very fortunate and the key to it is to do it constantly and keep doing it almost to the exclusion of everything else.  It can be difficult at times. That’s it. It is one hundred and fifty percent effort and one hundred and fifty percent focus on what you are doing,” says Jane Bach. Read More

The Scintillating Melanie Stace

Melanie Stace review photo front pageMelanie Stace who for the past five years has made her home in New York City put on an absolutely stunning performance on July 17 th at the dinner club 54 Below located in New York’s theater district. Ms. Stace who only weeks before had garnered resounding critical acclaim for her performance at Birdland captivated her audience, enticed them and at times seduced them with a performance that can only be described as truly breathaking, by a lady who not only knows how to sing really well, but who is also the consumate entertainer.

Melanie Stace was backed by a superb quartet of musicians that included pianist and musical director Doug Oberhamer, Tony Romano (guitar), David Anthony (drums) and upright bassist Brian Killeen who opened the evening with a splendid instrumental overture featuring a medley of movie theme songs, before giving way to Ms. Stace.  

Melanie Stace has developed a spectacular show that she has titled Sirens of the Silver Screen, which as you can guess pays homage to some of the film industry’s most scintillating ladies. We might suggest that Melanie Stace who is easily over six foot in heels and who is also beautiful, is a siren in her own right and although she has not, at least to our knowledge graced the silver screen she has performed on stage in London’s West End and on Broadway.

During an earlier interview with Riveting Riffs Magazine Melanie Stace had this to say about her show, “I wanted to be focused on the silver screen sirens, but I am not impersonating Read More

Billy Joe Shaver - Outlaw

Billy Joe Shaver Photo TwoCountry music singer-songwriter-guitarist Billy Joe Shaver, a native Texan called his new album Long In The Tooth, but we caution you do not suggest to this outlaw that he is past his prime or you just might get an ornery response from a fellow who believes he is singing better now than he ever has.  It is bad enough that his birthday which is on August 16th, has been widely circulated as sometime in September and that in some reports it has been suggested that there will be a big birthday concert, which Billy Joe Shaver knows nothing about.  There are a couple of lines in the title song that do however a tease at that what he used to spend all night doing, now it takes him all night to do.

Shaver has long been regarded as one of Country music’s top songwriters and he collaborates with another top writer, musician and singer, his lifelong friend Willie Nelson to form a duet on the song  “Hard To Be An Outlaw,” a song that talks as much about the changes that have occurred in Country music as it does about the character of…of these two characters.  Shaver and Nelson sing “It’s hard to be an outlaw who ain’t wanted anymore,” and then they take a shot at some of today’s Country music “superstars nowadays” who are “singing ‘bout the backroads they never have been down.”

“Willie felt a while back that way (about wanting to do a duet). Willie is hot and everybody comes to see him, maybe they think it is going to be his last show. It happens with me now (he laughs). Willie identified with this song. When I first pitched it to him, I pitched the title and he said, man you had better write that. I went and wrote it and once in a while he would say, that’s great. He was familiar with it and when I went over there   Read More

Brenda Earle Stokes - New Album

Brenda Earle Stokes front page photoThe centerpiece of Canadian singer-songwriter-pianist and arranger Brenda Earle Stokes’ new album “Right About Now,” is the title song, written by another Canadian Ron Sexsmith.  Earle Stokes who now makes her home in New York City with her husband Gerard and their little boy Patrick has crafted a breakthrough album that clearly signals that she deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as other great 21 st century artists to come out of Canada. This writer has known Brenda Earle Stokes for about eight and one-half years and each album has demonstrated more promise and more polish. Now we can stop talking about potential, because Brenda Earle Stokes has set the bar for other Jazz artists who will follow.

Accompanying herself on the Rhodes piano, Earle Stokes is surrounded by a cast of very good musicians including Jordan Perlson whose drumming is subtle and guitarist Steve Cardenas whose elegant playing is reminiscent of the great “Bucky” Pizzarelli. Matt Arnoff (bass) also appears on the song “Right About Now.” Earle Stokes’ longtime friend saxophonist Joel Frahm appears on several other songs from this breathtaking album.

Brenda Earle Stokes’ phrasing on the Sexsmith song “Right About Now,” draws the listener into a world where the singer has been worn down by the world and which expresses the need to experience love in that moment. It is a love letter, with a longing to it. When Ron Sexsmith penned the words he left room for the listener to interpret it as either a love that has departed permanently or perhaps a love that just is absent in the moment, but a relationship still intact. Either way the sense of longing and wishing for that love in the moment, in what one imagines is the middle of the night or the very Read More

Kendra Shank & John Stowell

 Kendra Shank and John Stowell front pageNew York Conversations, the splendid new album from west coast guitarist-songwriter John Stowell and east coast singer-songwriter Kendra Shank, opens beautifully with Irving Berlin’s “Blue Skies.” This is an elegant, laid back arrangement that is stripped bare, except for the guitar accompaniment and Kendra Shank’s soft vocals ant it is just one of the many memorable tunes on an album that came together rather spontaneously.

John Stowell explains, “This was not planned at all, as you may know from the press release this was a very ad hoc, spontaneous, let’s go the studio, because my old friend offered us some time. It was kind of a whim and going into the studio there was no real plan about repertoire or exactly what we would do.  We liked the first session so much we began thinking about a second visit and again there was nothing in mind in terms of an album and after two sessions we realized this could become something.  We paid my friend, who initially was giving us studio time gratis, as a way to reconnect after a thirty year absence. We got in touch after thirty years and it was kind of a hello how are you? (It was a) come by the studio invitation.  As a result of that being so informal and so low key, there was no pressure, because we were just having a good time with my friend…two friends Kendra and John, just having a good time. It was serendipity that it had enough substance to have merited some real time mixing it and mastering it and in some cases I overdubbed some other guitars as well. John Kilgore (engineer and recording studio owner) and I went to a private school together in the sixties and we played in a Rock band together. We lost touch for about thirty years and we reconnected through a mutual friend in New York. John for Read More

Think Twice About Nina Storey

Nina Storey front page photoLos Angeles singer-songwriter, Nina Storey, who is originally from Boulder, Colorado, has a brand new and spectacular album called Think Twice and it is chock full of delicious R&B influenced songs that reflect what the redheaded singer refers to as Future Retro. There is a tasteful sensuality to her vocals and the beat and melody get the listener’s hips moving, the head nodding and the feet dancing.

The title song “Think Twice,” paints a playful picture of a wild child and comes with the warning “Think twice before you call my name,” and “be careful what you wish for.” Her vocals are backed by a kick drum, crash cymbals and the song is introduced by keys. One should not be surprised that the song was inspired by Storey’s reading of the Chuck Palahniuk book Damned, a quirky 2011 novel about a thirteen year old girl, “Maddy” Spencer who wakes up in hell and after being given a tour of hell by some interesting characters, she goes about reforming and beautifying that domain. Nina Storey’s vocals recall the prime days of Soul and R&B in cities like Memphis, Detroit and Philadelphia and on some of her songs she reminds this writer of the U.K.’s Corrine Bailey Rae. 

Standing in stark contrast to songs like “Think Twice,” and the danceable “Gimmie Some,” is the tender, romantically longing “This Naked Woman.”

“That song was probably around the longest. I think I wrote it in 2005 or 2006 and it had never been released, but it has a huge cult following. I thought it needs to be on this record. It  Read More

Billy Vera - Big Band Jazz Interview

Billy Vera Big Band Jazz album coverWith lush big band arrangements by Chris Walden (the bonus track “At This Moment,” was arranged by Darrell Leonard), some killer Jazz musicians, including a complete horn section and drawing upon some of the best African American songwriters from the first half of the 20 th century, Billy Vera and his business partner and friend Tamela D’Amico executive produced a stunningly beautiful album, Big Band Jazz, with Vera at its focal point as the singer. The recording was produced by Jimmy Hoyson at Capitol Studio A in Hollywood, California. Billy Vera has built a reputation as a superb music historian and he was recognized in 2013 with a Grammy Award for his work with liner notes and he talks about that experience during the course of our conversation. The album Big Band Jazz is one that you DO want to get the CD for rather than in digital form. The liner notes and the artwork alone make this a collector’s item. Vera takes time to provide historical tidbits about the writers who composed the songs on this album and some of the people who recorded the tunes.

“It’s an album that I have wanted to do for probably twenty years. I have always wanted to do a big band album and I have always procrastinated and I couldn’t get anybody to put up any money for it or any record companies. When Michael Bublé recorded “At This Moment,” and sold eight and one-half million records, I took one of the checks and I did it myself.

I had met this girl Tamela D’Amico and she friended me on Facebook. I checked her out on Youtube and all of that and I said wow she’s good, she’s likes the old stuff. I listened to the album and Read More

Meghan Krauss and Maragold In Concert

Meghan Krauss by J Hancock

Meghan Krauss in concert Photo by John Hancock Photography
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Germany's Barbara Dennerlein

Barbara Dennerlein Photo 2014 front pageKeeping up with German Hammond B3 and pipe organist Barbara Dennerlein is a lot like watching a dog chase its own tail. The dog will never catch its tail and you will never catch up with Barbara Dennerlein, so do not even try. In the six years or so that I have known her she seems to barely complete one project when she is onto the next or she is hopping on a plane as part of her tour schedule. Our recent chat with Barbara revealed that her activity level is just as high as ever. She had just finished making more of her music available through sheet music, she had a virtual pipe organ custom made and installed in her home and she was getting ready to return to Sweden to record a DVD (April 2014).

Barbara Dennerlein talks about her DVD project, “Last year I gave a concert in Sweden and it was at a very small place in northern Sweden at Piteå (in Norbotten County) and it is called Studio Acusticum. This is unique as well, because they have a big concert hall beside another concert place. In this particular concert Hall Gerald Woehl who is a famous organ builder has built a huge pipe organ with an incredible modern design. It looks so good and the pipe organ is also something special. They have a lot of possibilities in this concert hall. They have a ceiling that can be moved downward to make the reverb like you need it for the concert. They put the ceiling up when you have a pipe organ concert and they want to have more reverb and they put it down for a concert where they don’t want to have so much reverb. It is a very modern concert hall and I had this concert, which was a great success. It was on the new pipe organ. We said that we wanted to collaborate more, so (we got) the idea to make a DVD, because they have everything there. They have the studio there and they have all of the technical means. The idea was that the Hammond organ meets the pipe organ at Studio Acusticum. This was the idea for the whole project and I thought about putting my favorite songs together for that concert. (the DVD will be released later this year) I have so many things (on the go) at the moment and I don’t know which will be ready first. It depends.  I took some time to write a lot of new music. You need Read More

Billy Thompson - Blues Interview

Billy Thompson front page PhotoThe things you have to like about Blues slide guitarist, singer and songwriter Billy Thompson, born in North Carolina, lived in San Diego and Louisiana and who now makes his home in West Virginia is are his down to earth sense of humor combined with his honesty and his candor when answering a question.  We are going to break with traditional journalistic style here and not refer to him as Mr. Thompson or Thompson, because he would want you to call him Billy.

When asked recently why he recorded his new album Friend in a grist mill Billy replied, “It is actually where I live in West Virginia. We brought in an engineer and some equipment. I live in a converted grist mill, with a hardwood floor and it is by a pond on Sleepy Creek. We did our best and we got a decent sound,” and when asked why he wanted to capture that sound, “to save money.  That was one and the other one was, I have a friend Rob Coward who felt that he could capture it and I said okay we will give it a shot.  Had that not worked, we would have gone a different route. My plan was to record seventeen songs and then choose the best.  We recorded seventeen tunes in three days.  We had two full days and then we captured another three tunes on the third morning and we said that’s enough, enough for now,” Billy recalls.

If you like head nodding, foot tapping, hip swaying blues that invite you to get up on your feet then songs like Billy Thompson’s “Farmer Kenny,” will hook you on his music.  He says his songs are a hybrid of Chicago, Louisiana and Memphis Blues.

“The guys that I was more influenced by were Albert King and Little Milton. Albert King is from Lovejoy, Indiana, but it is closer to Memphis. Everybody went up to Chicago and in Albert King’s case he went to Memphis. It is a   Read More

Alaina Blair's EP - Here I Am

Alaina Blair EP Here I Am coverart front pageCarlsbad, California singer-songwriter Alaina Blair collaborated with producer, singer-songwriter-musician Billy Alexander to release a new EP Here I Am, one that is ensconced in the Country-Pop genre.  The album opens with “Throw It All Away,” more of a quick paced, girls’ night out type of a song co-written by Alexander and Melanie Joe. Billy Alexander and Mario Sangermano do most of the heavy lifting instrumentally with the former on electric and acoustic guitars, as well as organ and mandolin and the latter playing bass. Wielding the sticks on drums is Tony Morra.

At first listen, the beautiful and heartfelt “Here Tonight,” sounds like a romantic relationship that came to an end, but the song holds a double meaning as it is also about experiencing the loss of a different type of relationship.

Alaina Blair says, “This song is one of my favorites on the album. We started writing it and the next day I found out this woman, who was like a second mom to me, had cancer. No one knew the severity until a couple days later when she passed. It was so quick and it was such a terrible thing to happen. She was always the one who brought everyone around her together and even after (her passing) she continues to do the same thing. I know she is our guardian angel now and this song really helps me to hold on to her and her memory.

The first time that we performed “Here Tonight,” (live) her best friend was there with us. When we performed it at the CD release party, her husband was there, as well as all of our close friends and family who knew her. It was like a family smile / cry.”  

There are a couple of lines in “Here Tonight,” that are particularly emotive and they   Read More

Brad Elvis of The Handcuffs In Concert

The Handcuffs Front Page Photo One

Photo of The Handcuffs by Joe Brittin
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Beverly Bremers Interview

Beverly Bremers Photo front pageAlthough Beverly Bremers is best remembered for her hit song, “Don’t Say You Don’t Remember,” which cracked the top twenty on a couple of Billboard charts, in 1971 and then again in 1972, Bremers had already made a name for herself as an actress in the Broadway musical Hair. In 1964 at fourteen years of age, Beverly Bremers had also signed her first recording contract with Pickwick International (parent company of Pickwick Records).

Bremers talks about her time at Pickwick, “I was working with a guy named Terry Philips and I didn’t find out until recently that he was famous in his own right. He was part of a trio of writers, the most famous one being Lou Reed (Lou Reed was at Pickwick International from September 1964 until February 1965. It was during this time that Reed formed the band The Primitives with John Cale.) and another guy named Jerry Vance. They wrote a lot of songs, as well as produced a lot of cover records for Pickwick. Someone asked me a few years ago if Lou Reed played on my session and I said I have no idea (Reed played on numerous sessions at Pickwick, during the time Beverly Bremers was signed to the label, but he was not credited). I was very grateful to him, because Lou Reed and Jerry Vance wrote this song called “We Got Trouble,” and the B side was a remake of “The Great Pretender.” That was the beginning of my recording career and my studio experience. I learned how to sing properly and he (Philips) sent me to a singing teacher at Carnegie Hall.”

When this writer suggested that fourteen years old is pretty young to release your first record, Beverly Bremers replies, “Yes it is. We lived in the suburbs of New York and there were a lot of people who lived in Westchester County who were involved in the (music) business. Somehow I  Read More


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