R & B - Soul Interviews

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Kirsten Nash Interview

kirsten nash thumbnailKirsten Nash is best known as one of North America’s premiere saxophonists, singers and songwriters and yet our conversation on this day started with a place in Ms. Nash’s career that many people may not be aware of, her gift for creating outstanding musicals. She has two in her hip pocket, both of which have been produced and both of which should be picked up by major theatrical companies looking for something fresh and exciting and which will deeply move their patrons.

My first rock opera was Alice in Modernland and that was workshopped in 1997 -98 in New York.  The premiere of the play was in San Diego in 1999. We did it with Maxwell Enterprises who did Damn Yankees and a whole bunch of other stuff.  Alice in Modernland was a take on the old classic and it was about the human journey. It was a sixteen year old’s view on life and about leaving home young. It is about a journey of this gal who wanted to make it in the business. It did very well and it is a good play. Eric Nederlander (of the well-known theatrical family) wanted to do it on Broadway in October of 2008 and my manager and I had a meeting with him in New York. Eric said, ‘We are going to do it,’ that he was going to get married and they were going to fly to Italy and then they would be back.  ‘Give me a couple of weeks after we get back and we will clear out one of our theaters.’  I was ecstatic and I was like yeah! I was getting groceries one day and I was thinking, he must be getting back pretty soon and he was back. On the front of People Magazine was a picture of him and he was about to sue Jerry Seinfeld for alienation of affection, because Eric Nederlander’s wife, Read More

Amy Black and Memphis

Amy Black Photo Front PageNashville based singer and songwriter Amy Black is a lot of things, but there are some things that we should dispel immediately about what she is not, just in case readers get the wrong idea from some of the titles for her original songs from her new album Memphis. Her song “It’s Hard To Love An Angry Man,” is not about any men she knows, unless we want to count the men she has encountered and observed at Home Depot (more about that later) and it is definitely not about her main squeeze, her hubby, whom she describes as her Zen master. The killer tune “The Blackest Cloud,” in no way suggests that Amy Black suffers from a Chicken Little syndrome either, far from it, as in the view of this writer she projects as being a happy, positive individual and our conversation was often punctuated with her laughter.

Memphis is the fourth album that Amy Black has released and in some ways is a continuation of the stylistic thread of her previous record, The Muscle Shoals Sessions.

Talking about the evolution of her music Black says, “I think the shift started with my second album, This is Home that I recorded in Nashville and you can definitely hear on the first three songs on that album a little bit more of a soulful, Blues thing going on, before the rest of the album goes onto singer / songwriter kind of Americana.

About the same time that I was recording the Nashville album I had this day booked at Muscle Shoals and I was going to record this song called “Alabama,” that I wrote for my grandfather who was from the Muscle Shoals area I thought it would be cool to go Read More

Billy Thompson Sizzles

Billy Thompson Photo Front PageBilly Thompson’s self-titled and current album segues easily between straight up Blues and Blues Rock. The album was recorded in seven different studios and features a cast of top rated musicians including, drummer Tony Braunagel (Coco Montoya, B.B. King, Robert Cray, Bonnie Raitt), organist Mike Finnigan (Curtis Salgado, Neal McCoy, Tracy Chapman, Steve Tyrell), James “Hutch” Hutchinson on bass (Marc Cohn, Randy Newman), keyboardist Michael Leroy Peed, bassist Daryl Johnson and several other musicians too numerous to name in this space.

As for recording the songs, “Stranger,” “Hourglass,” and “Phoine” at Ultratone Studio in Studio City, California where it was recorded by Johnny Lee Schell (Marcella Detroit, John Lee Hooker Jr.,  Bonnie Raitt, Joe Cocker) and calling up old friends Tony Braunagel, “Hutch” Hutchinson and Mike Finnigan, Billy Thompson says, “I feel the bluesier stuff always works great with those guys. I recorded four songs, but I only used three and the fourth one will be on the next album. I think those guys are the cream of the crop when it comes to Blues based playing. They are some of the best players in the world. Mike Finnigan played with Jimi Hendrix when he was twenty-two and Tony Braunagel was with Back Street Crawler, which became Free with Paul Rodgers and he played with Eric Burdon.”

The album opens with the somewhat funky “Burn It Down Bernadette,” cuts to the jumping “Phoine,” a song on which Thompson’s guitar seems energized by Finnigan’s splendid organ and vice versa.

The third song on the album “Black Rain,” is  Read More

Laura Rain and the Caesars

Laura Rain Photo for the front pageRiveting Riffs Magazine had the opportunity to sit in on a Laura Rain and the Caesars gig, when we visited the Detroit area during the last week of June and it was on the recommendation of Mary McGuire of the stellar band The Blood Sisters that we checked out the dynamic singer-songwriter. Rain is a powerful vocalist who is reminiscent of some of the best R&B / Soul / Funk singers to grace the airwaves and a stage. Her soulful vocals remind one of Aretha Franklin, her Bluesy inflections bring to mind Etta James, she has some of Chaka Khan’s funk and she owns the stage like Millie Jackson only minus the coarse language.

Sitting outside in Birmingham, Michigan, a suburb of Detroit, on a sunny Sunday afternoon and talking to Laura Rain, she has a quiet demeanor and ponders this writer’s questions thoughtfully before answering. She laughs easily and often, a warm laughter that is genuine and comes from deep within. In some ways she is the antithesis of the wailing, yelping and at times foot stomping dynamo we had witnessed twelve hours earlier and on stage a few blocks away.

She laughs lightly and says, “I don’t know, I don’t know where that comes from (her stage persona). It’s that part of me that creative force. It is an artistic display. It is a powerful force and connection that just occurs and the better that the band gets and the more that I work with certain people the better that I become it is just more connected and stronger.”

Although, Laura Rain’s band is comprised of  Read More

R&B Chanteuse Alisa Ohri

Alisa Ohri Photo thumbnail“As an independent artist, I think that it is amazing what we can do amongst ourselves, away from big industry and the huge record labels. There are people out there who want to hear good music and who want to make good music. I am loving it, and I think that we are in really special times,” says Alisa Ohri, a R&B singer – songwriter who now lives in New York City and who got her career kick started many years ago, singing backup vocals for a rock band in California, while she attended university and then later performed with a group that morphed into Third Eye Blind.

With her most recent album, ‘Cuz I Feel Alisa Ohri has demonstrated that an independent artist can produce a quality recording, with grooves and vibes better than most of what you will hear on FM radio stations these days. It also does not hurt that she is married to one of the funkiest bass players around Hubert Eaves IV, who for several years toured with R&B queen Erykah Badu. His father Hubert Eaves III lends his production and playing skills to Ohri’s album as well and the senior Eaves is no slouch either, as he was the mastermind behind D-Train’s music and Miles Davis once covered one of Eaves’ own songs. As for the third musician who appears on Alisa Ohri’s ‘Cuz I Feel, Alex Moseley, he was one of the two musicians who backed Lisa Lisa and the Cult Jam. Read More

Maurice Williams Interview

Maurice Williams thumbnailMusic historians, fans of the Doo Wop era and the period in which R&B and Beach Music began to emerge, do not need an introduction to the music of Maurice Williams and the Zodiacs, for songs such as “Little Darlin’,” first recorded by and written by Maurice Williams, the hit song “Stay,” and “May I,” are songs to which generations of music fans have sung along. After fifty years as a recording and performing singer – songwriter, Maurice Williams is attracting a lot of attention again, this time with his new album Maurice Williams and the Zodiacs 50 years… The trade mark falsettos, which put songs such as “Stay,” at the top of the charts in the 1960s and also made it a hit song years later, for Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, are back once again. In 1960, Shane Gaston was serving up the falsetto vocals and on the new album it is the late Fred Mangum who provided the falsetto vocals. The combination of Maurice Williams’s vocals and Fred Mangum are pure magic.

Williams remembers how it all started, “I started singing in church and then I went to the high school glee club. Our director said, ‘Have you guys ever thought about singing Pop songs?”  We said we thought about it, but we never did anything and the director said we ought to form a Pop group.  I could play piano, one guy could play guitar, another could play bass and we added some drums and I came up with The Royal Charms (for the name of the group). We started winning talent shows and we won one at the local high school. Then there were some guys from the University of South Carolina that started booking us for the university Read More