RUSTY SHIPP Release New Video for “SS Naronic”

Nashville rock band Rusty Shipp released their monumental album Mortal Ghost in 2017 to wide acclaim. Over the past several months they’ve been producing videos for different tracks off the album, and last November they released a terrific animated video for “Treading Water,” which I reviewed. They’ve now released an amazing new video for another track “SS Naronic,” a dramatic song about a ship that sank on February 19, 1893. The band chose today for the release to commemorate that fateful event.

Rusty Shipp calls itself a “Nautical Rock’n’Roll” band, with a sound influenced by the melodic chord progressions of The Beatles, the surf guitar of Dick Dale, the grunge rock of Nirvana, and the heavy metal of Led Zeppelin, among others. Their music is characterized by a dark, underwater sound, haunting vocals, and heavy riffs. The band consists of singer/songwriter and front man Russ T. Shipp (literally his birth name) on guitar and vocals, Elijah Apperson on lead guitar, AJ Newton on drums and Michael Craft on bass.

Rusty Shipp2

The SS Naronic was a steamship built in Belfast for the White Star Line. Eight days after leaving Liverpool for New York on February 11, 1893, the ship was lost at sea, along with all 74 people on board. According to Wikipedia, the exact cause of the ship’s sinking was never determined. However, messages found later that had been written by passengers and placed in bottles once they realized their ship was sinking seemed to indicate that it hit an iceberg. Rusty Shipp based their lyrics for the song on some of those actual messages. A particularly poignant line is “Oh god please tell me there is more than this, that this cold abyss is not the end.” Another is “Cattle and charcoal jettisoned to save the boat. But we won’t stay afloat.”

The hard-hitting song features intense, gritty guitars, heavy bass and lots of crashing cymbals, perfectly conveying the horror of the awful tragedy. The superb illustrated animation video was created by Hein Zaayman of Vohnic Music LLC, the same artist who illustrated the Mortal Ghost album cover. The brilliant use of sepia tones gives the video an historical feel.

Connect with Rusty Shipp: Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music: Spotify / Soundcloud / Reverbnation / YouTube
Purchase: iTunes / cdbaby / Bandcamp

DAN FARRELL – Album Review: “Colliding Planets”

Dan Farrell Album

Dan Farrell is a singer/songwriter based in London, UK. A multi-instrumentalist who plays guitar, bass and keyboards, as well as produces all of his tracks in his own home studio, he refers to himself as a “one man band.” That said, in his bio he explains “My main instrument is guitar which I play left handed – but with the strings strung for a right handed person. Consequently all the chords I play are upside down. Strange, but true.” It sounds complicated to me, but Dan manages to coax some pretty phenomenal sounds from his six-string.

He welcomed 2018 by releasing his third album Colliding Planets, an ambitious work featuring 15 tracks that dropped on January 12. Collectively, the songs on the album draw from a myriad of influences and genres, including rock, jazz, blues, country and pop, and a few tracks seem to include them all! Dan cites the Beatles, Rolling Stones, Tom Petty, Queen, the Bee Gees and Amy Winehouse as some of his favorites, whose influences can clearly be heard on several tracks.

Dan Farrell

He kicks things off with “Salt of the Earth,” a rousing, foot-stomping country rock track. I like the aggressive drum beat, and Dan’s spirited guitar work make for an incredibly upbeat song. “She’s Still Drivin‘” keeps the energy flowing with a lively rock’n’roll tempo and Dan’s jangly guitars. After hearing just these two tracks, it’s clear he’s a skilled axe man. The sounds of a racing engine are a nice touch.

Tom Petty’s influence is evident on “Dreams of a Dreamer.” It’s a great song, with heavily strummed guitar set to a slow drumbeat. I love the added keyboards and guitar riffs. Dan sings about a woman he desires, but circumstances prevent anything from ever happening:

You’re thinking about me, it brings on a sigh
I’m wishin’ for something that we can never try
The dreams of a dreamer are making you sweat
Are making your heart beat a little faster

One of my favorite tracks is “Revealed in a Kiss,” a languid, jazzy affair with gentle guitars and sensuous horns that conjure up images of a romantic slow dance extending late into the evening. Dan’s smooth vocals are wonderful. “Don’t Blame Me” is a bouncy pop-rock track with jangly guitars and lush keyboards. Piano and keyboards take prominence on the lovely ballad “Get Inside Their Soul, and the bittersweet “The Blue Bar” has a country rock feel, and reminds me a bit of Bob Dylan’s “Knocking On Heaven’s Door.” Dan sings of the passage of time and how some achieve their dreams, while others watch theirs turn to dust: “I used to share the same dreams that made us all survive. I used to have the same hopes that kept us all alive. / Then the revolution took it all away.”

“Another great track is “One Like You,” a fun rock’n’roll song about wanting to stay home with the object of his affection rather than go to work: “Well you know I got to go and earn a buck or two. But I’d rather spend my time with one like you.” Like all of Dan’s songs, it has terrific guitar work, and the lively trumpet and keyboards make for a really upbeat number. Dan turns introspective on the country rock track “Let It Go,” a song about letting go of the dream of being with someone he can never have and just moving on.

Just Because” is a mellow, upbeat song about not feeling guilty about indulging in the simple pleasures in life: “There doesn’t have to be an explanation for everything we do, every sensation. Sometimes it’s nice to do a lot a nothing. It’s good to go and treat yourself sometimes.” On the beautiful, uplifting ballad “I Tried,” Dan sings about believing in someone and encouraging them to take the right path in life. “I’ll always wish you well ’cause I believe in you. The road we choose is up to us, and sometimes life can make a fuss.”

One in a Million” has a sophisticated vibe with jangly guitars, soulful keyboards and jazzy horns. Dan wistfully sings about how things in life don’t always turn out the way you’d hoped: “The higher you climb the further you fall. You think you’re doing well standing tall. But then your best-laid plans they come crashing down. That youthful innocence you had is on the ground. One in a million has that perfect sound. Went and lifted my feet right off the ground.”

The catchy “The Man I Want to Be” serves up bouncy riffs, and in his gravelly vocals, Dan sings about how’s he matured into a better man. “Leave My Mark” is a rousing guitar-driven rock song, with a riff that channels the Rolling Stones’ hard-rocking “Start Me Up.”  Keeping with a Stones theme, album closer “You Only Know When You See” has a bit of a “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” vibe.

Colliding Planets is a fine, well-crafted album that showcases Dan’s exceptional guitar work and skill for writing catchy melodies and intelligent lyrics about life that we can all relate to.

To learn more about Dan, check out his Website and connect with him on Twitter
Stream his music on Spotify / Reverbnation / Soundcloud / Apple Music
Purchase on cdbaby / Bandcamp / iTunes / Amazon

MELOTIKA – Single Review: “Unaware Part II [Blindside]”

Melotika single

Melotika is a Toronto, Ontario, Canada-based electronic indie/pop project consisting of singer/songwriter Mel Yelle and DJ/producer Jackman Jones, also known as Mista T Dot. Last year they released two singles “Downtown Summer ft. Krosst Out” and “Unaware,” and on January 30 they dropped a sultry new track “Unaware Part II [Blindside].”

According to Mel Yelle, it’s a continuation of the theme expressed in “Unaware,” and open to interpretation. My take is that “Unaware” is about struggling to maintain one’s identity in the face of a relationship that’s unraveling. In “Unaware Part II [Blindside],” she’s confronting the person who blindsided her, telling them she no longer cares, is moving on, and so should they:

Quit callin’ when my make-up fallin’ and I wonder why you’re not alone? 
Big ballin’ and I see you stallin’ while your trippin’ at the mall 
Go getter, why you even bother? When it’s just so clear you see 
No better, doesn’t even matter, no it doesn’t really matter to me 

If you want it! Can you start it! You’re a getaway! 
If you thought it! And you need it! Do it anyway! 
Jumpstart, we won’t be apart; to the unknown 
If you want it, and you need it I won’t ever want you alone 

Blindside of the future, blindside it’s my nature 
Don’t want any part of it, so much more to see 

Mel Yelle

Born and raised in Montreal, Mel Yelle’s rich, smoky vocals remind me at times of fellow Quebecois Celine Dion, with whom she also bears a striking resemblance. Combined with Jones’ sultry hip-hop beats and mysterious echoed synths, together they’ve produced a track brimming with sensuous grooves that raise body temperatures and aim straight for the hips. It’s a marvelous song.

Melotika will be releasing their first EP in March. To learn more, connect with them on  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music on Spotify / Soundcloud / Apple Music
Purchase on iTunes or Bandcamp

UNQUIET NIGHTS – Single Review: “Promise of You”

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I receive a lot of requests from artists and bands wanting reviews of their latest music or to be featured on this blog, and it’s fun to discover some great new music I would not have otherwise heard. So it was my good fortune when Luke Mathers, frontman of the indie rock band Unquiet Nights, reached out to me with their new single “Promise of You,” which officially drops tomorrow, February 16th.

Based in Belfast, Northern Ireland, Unquiet Nights began in 2006 as a solo project for Mathers, who writes all his songs, plays guitar and sings. He began recording tracks for what would become the first Unquiet Nights album 21st Century Redemption Songs, then relocated to Italy in 2010, where the album was finished. Mathers eventually brought Italian musicians Matteo Bussotti and Francesco Piciucchi on board, and Unquiet Nights officially became a band. In 2015 they released a second album Postcards in Real Time, an outstanding work that I strongly recommend my readers make an effort to check out by using one of the links at the end of this review. Mathers moved back to Northern Ireland in 2016, though he still plays with Bussotti and Piciucchi, and has been working on new material for a third album.

Unquiet Nights Luke

“Promise of You” is the first single, and it’s a hard-rockin’ beauty! It starts off with a drawn-out electric guitar note, then an explosion of gritty guitars and fuzzy bass rain down, propelled by a crushing drumbeat that really gets the blood pumping. The track grows more intense as dramatic synths and layers of jangly and shredded guitars are added, building to a pulse-pounding crescendo. The instrumentals are phenomenal, and Mathers fervent vocals perfectly convey the unbridled passion he feels for another, and the exciting promise of a romantic entanglement.

It’s a fantastic track, and a promising (no pun intended) sign that Unquiet Nights will be delivering another stellar album for our listening enjoyment.

Connect with Unquiet Nights:  Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music on  Spotify / Apple MusicSoundcloud / Reverbnation
Purchase on Bandcamp or iTunes

THE TRIMS – Album Review: “Julian Street”

Trims album

San Jose, California-based indie post-punk band The Trims have been making great music for nearly a decade. Formed in 2009 by singer/songwriter/guitarist Gabe Maciel, The Trims also includes Billy Brady on drums and Mark Sharp on bass. Their on-stage charisma and skill at creating catchy, high-energy grooves have built them a huge following in the San Francisco Bay Area and beyond.

They were one of the first bands I featured on this blog back in October 2015, and in August 2017, I reviewed their fantastic single “The One I Want.”  They’ve now released their second full-length album Julian Street (named after a major thoroughfare running through San Jose), which dropped in January, delivering ten superb tracks that showcase their exuberant guitar-driven sound.

The Trims photo

Julian Street starts off big with the exhilarating “Turn Out the Lights.” Our ears are instantly hit with an onslaught of Mark’s gritty bass and Billy’s hammering drumbeats, setting the stage for Gabe’s frantic riffs of chiming guitars. It’s clear their aim is to have us on our feet and dancing within seconds. With his fervent vocals, Gabe sings “Turn out the lights. Bring back the summer before our youth is gone.” On “Nobody Else” Gabe sings of his never ending devotion and not wanting to love anyone else.

Now is a good time to mention how much I love Gabe’s marvelous vocals and his signature guitar style, which seems to meld surf, punk, rock’n’roll and doo wop elements into a highly satisfying, upbeat sound uniquely recognizable as their own. Another thing is how well the guys play together, totally in sync with each other to create a tight sound.

Dying (Just to See Your Face)” and the lead single “The One I Want” are perfect examples of what I’m talking about, with intricate, fast-paced riffs of jangly guitars and a frenetic, heavy drumbeat. “Bedroom Mirror” has layers of multi-textured guitars over a funky bass line and drums that Billy seems to hit at 100 beats per second. The man is one hell of a power drummer!

The guys slow it down on the lovely acoustic ballad “Gone Away.” Gabe strums a melancholy riff on his guitar as he sings: “All we have is this moment to release what’s inside. All we have is tomorrow. I’ll be home in time. Tomorrow has gone away.” I really like this mellower sound which they do quite well, and wish they’d make more songs like this.

I Wish I Could Say” has Gabe wanting to apologize but unable to: “I would like to tell that I’m sorry for the stupid things I wish I’d never done./ I wish that I could say that the worst was over. I wish I could tell you nothing’s wrong.  But now I see I was mistaken. A fool who never seemed to care.”

Mark’s bass is prominently on display on the melodic hard-driving tracks “Hands of Time” and “You Tell Me.”  Of course, Gabe’s awesome guitar work and Billy’s skillful drumming are on-point as always. Album closer “Balam in Love” features generous synths that nicely complement the gorgeous guitars and throbbing bass, creating a bit of a new wave/punk-infused vibe. Gabe tells a lover that their relationship is over and he wants out: “There’s nothing more to say. This is the game you play. Just let me go.” It’s a brilliant track, and one of my favorites from this excellent and thoroughly enjoyable album.

Connect with The Trims:  Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music on Spotify or Apple Music
Purchase on Bandcamp or iTunes

ANNA MITCHELL – Album Review: “Anna Mitchell”

Anna Mitchell album-cover

Anna Mitchell is a singer/songwriter based in Cork, Ireland, and she’s released an astonishingly beautiful album. Her self-titled Anna Mitchell dropped in January, and it’s as close to perfection as any recent album I’ve heard. This is Anna’s second studio album, which follows her 2015 debut effort Down to the Bone. With a lot of albums, it can take a couple of listens for the music to grow on me, but with Anna Mitchell I was blown away the moment I heard it. Each new track was a revelation, leading me to quickly recognize that here was an exceptional work of musical art.

Anna Mitchell

Drawing inspiration from some of the best singers and songwriters in music – including  Joni Mitchell, Emmylou Harris, Bonnie Raitt, Linda Ronstadt, Ray LaMontagne, Stevie Nicks, Tim O’ Brien, Bob Dylan, Shawn Colvin and Gillian Welch – Anna melds folk, country, Americana, rock’n’roll, pop and blues influences to create exquisite songs that speak to oft-covered subjects of love and relationships, and the joy and pain they bring. Her strong, clear vocals could easily go toe to toe with many of the aforementioned singers. The album was recorded independently, with musical assistance from well known Irish musicians Davie Ryan on drums, Brian Hassett on bass and Alan Comerford on guitar. It was engineered and co-produced by Brendan Fennessy.

Anna Mitchell opens with the gorgeous ballad “All These Things.” Anna immediately casts us under her spell with captivating vocals that seem to float and soar above layers of stunning, richly-textured guitars and a humming bass line. Davie Ryan provides just the right amount of percussion, and the lush horns add a jazzy flourish later in the track. The song’s unusual video is extraordinary:

Anna dials up the tempo on “It Pours,” a great pop-rock song with the kind of strong driving beat that I love. The bluesy guitars are terrific, and Anna’s sultry vocals turn passionate as she admonishes one to stop whining and start living: “Hold your tongue, hold your tongue, I’m not listening. You’re not the only one with sadness or sin. I feel the weight of the world creepin’ in. And if you don’t start kicking you won’t stop sinking. It pours outta you, outta you.” The trippy video shows blacklit images of faces painted with phosphorescent colors in the dark.

Radio Waves” is a lovely but bittersweet Country-rock song with slide guitar, piano and organ as the primary instruments. Anna earnestly sings of escaping from life’s troubles through music: “Radio waves, audio slave, turn me up ’cause I’m down.” On “Never Learn,” Anna’s smooth vocals are accompanied by a bewitching piano melody as she tells someone their broken relationship is beyond repair: “You can waste your time, but keep your hands off mine. Past the point of no return.” Staying with that theme, on the Country-rock track “Get Out” Anna tells a man in no uncertain terms that she’s through with him: “It would be nice to stop and chat, but I don’t like you. Well they say that you’re a really good catch, but I don’t want you / Do you just feel like a man when you shout? Oh, get out! Just get out!”

One of my favorite songs is the rousing foot-stomper “Dog Track.” Thanks to heavy, distorted electric guitar, buzzing bass and pounding drum beat, the track’s harder and edgier than the others. And like the music, Anna’s echoed vocals are more aggressive as she snarls the lyrics about a guy she finds attractive who’s also bad news: “Is that a wolf howlin’ or is it just the wind? Well I met him down at the dog track. He was walking around like he was on the attack.”

Anna’s impressive songwriting talents are showcased on the melodically complex “Better Life.” The mysterious and powerful song features a strong bass line overlain with tremolo-heavy guitars and an array of instruments, including piano, slide guitar, organ, violin, and drums. “Slice of the Pie” is a call for respect for the working class in  their struggle to make a living: “You don’t judge a man, just by the way he found to feed his children. Everybody wants a slice of the pie. They’re just like you and I, trying to get by.” The album closes with Anna acknowledging she was wrong, asking her man to “Come Home.” She teases: “I like your bedside manner / Come home, when you coming back to me?

Anna Mitchell is a phenomenal album that needs to be heard by as many ears as possible. I’m so glad Anna reached out to me, and I’m thrilled to do what I can help promote her and her incredible music.

Those of you in Ireland can see Anna and her band at one of these upcoming shows:

Saturday, February 10      Levi’s Corner House, Ballydehob  8 PM
Friday, February 16       Whelan’s, Dublin  8 PM
Sunday, February 18      John Cleer’s Bar & Theatre, Kilkenny  8 PM

Connect with Anna:  Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream her music on Spotify / SoundcloudApple Music
Purchase on Bandcamp or iTunes

THUNDERIAN SUMMER – EP Review: “By The Gun”

Thunderian Summer EP

Thunderian Summer is a five-piece guitar-driven rock band from the British Midlands who released their debut EP By The Gun at the end of 2017. They also have a clever sense of humor. Their bio is so droll that, rather than make a pathetic attempt to paraphrase, I’ll simply quote their amusing words verbatim:

We “evolved from a covers band around the end of 2016. Made up of Dave, ex RAF, Come Dine With Me winning truck driver; Alex, Looked After Children’s residential worker; Tim the gas-man; Matt, who once made glow in the dark condoms; and Pabs, the smart one, introduced to drums by Felix Morales and a founding member of the Asturian grassroots punk band Polémika. We’ve lived the life we write about and write about the life we live. Our songs are our observations, our moods and desires.

After wandering the Derbyshire wilderness with only a guitar for company, Al found himself hitching a ride with a trucker who spoke only in song.  Growling melodies born of both pain and desire, the pair quickly resolved that together Rock’n’roll was their future.  They found an ageing bass player lost in a long forgotten depot of the Royal Mail. A stop at a pub on the A511 brought them to a Juke box, which, when loaded with a fifty pence piece grew tiny hands and played any song requested. Finally, out of the darkness and not wavering from the full beam, was a Spanish matador with drum sticks held aloft… And Thunderian Summer took it’s form.”

Thunderian Summer2

After a hilarious self-description like that, you’ve got no choice but to check out their music! Now to properly introduce the band members, they are Dave Thomas (vocals), Alex “Big Al” Lee (lead guitar), Tim “The Juke” Stone (rhythm guitar), Matt “Pops” Morley (bass) and Pablo “Pabs” Fernandez (drums).  They cite as influences some of their favorite bands like the Foo Fighters, Gaslight Anthem, Oasis, Arctic Monkeys, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Fleetwood Mac, Led Zeppelin and Kings of Leon (all of whom are among my favorites too).

Despite their wicked sense of humor, the band has a serious side, no more so than on “Just a Solder.” Gritty riffs accompanied by a droning bass line and set to a military-style drumbeat provide a fitting backdrop to the mournful lyrics. Thomas’s raw, emotionally-charged vocals convey despair as he wails about a soldier’s conflicted feelings of being both a loving husband and father vs. the responsibility and attendant guilt of being a soldier trained to kill:

I’m just a solder on the run
I’ve got nothing but this loaded gun
I got love for my country
But I’ve got no love for what I’ve done
I come home to my adoring wife
It’s in her hands I put my life

And I will live by this gun and I will die by this gun
At all costs, do what’s right
And I will live by this gun, and I will die by this gun
At all costs, I’m here to fight

Still in a serious mode, the guys dial up the energy on the melodic “The Man I Want to Be.” Layers of jangly riffs and fuzzy guitars nicely play off the smooth bass and Pabs’ confident drums. And once again, Thomas’s gritty vocals exhibit a raw vulnerability as he sings about his desperate wish to remain sober and be a better man. “Think It’s Time” kicks off with a beautiful, catchy little riff, then shredded guitars and lots of crashing cymbals enter, propelled by a buzzing bass line and fast-paced thumping drumbeat. Thomas’s impassioned vocals remind me a bit of Rob Thomas on this track.

Interestingly, the band includes a rousing live performance of “Lion Bear Tiger Mama” as one of the EP’s tracks, giving those of us who’ve never had the pleasure of seeing them live an inkling of how electrifying they must be on stage. Led Zeppelin’s influence can clearly be heard on this track that channels their classic head banger “Rock and Roll.” They surprise us again with the delightful acoustic track “Pretty Pants (Unplugged),” generously sampling the Counting Crows classic “Mr. Jones” – both musically and lyrically, with the great lines “And we will stare at beautiful women. Are they looking at you? No no, they must be looking at me.”

All in all, By The Gun is a great little EP. My only criticism is that at only 19 minutes long, its over too quickly, and I wish it had more songs. I guess I’ll just have to wait for Thunderian Summer to release some new music. In the meantime, those of you in the UK can catch them live at one of these upcoming shows:

February 17     Pi Bar, Leicester
March 17        The Gamecock Inn, Tamworth
April 20        The Victoria, Birmingham

Connect with Thunderian Summer:  Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music on Spotify / Apple Music / Soundcloud
Purchase on iTunes / cdbaby

JAMES BAKIAN – EP Review: “Unstoppable”

James Bakian EP

There are so many talented musicians making really good music these days, but every so often we come upon one who stands above the crowd. James Bakian, a charismatic young singer/songwriter from London, UK, is such an artist. He’s only 14 years old, but possesses a phenomenal vocal styling with a maturity beyond his years. His love of music has been in his blood since he was a young child, and he wrote his first song “Oh Baby” at the age of six! He began studying piano at seven, and from that point on, he knew he wanted a career in music.

Drawing inspiration from some of his favorite artists like Maroon 5, Charlie Puth, Sam Smith, Ed Sheeran, Sia, Selena Gomez, Shawn Mendes, Justin Bieber and Drake, James has developed a singing style that fits his beautiful voice. In his bio, he explains his creative process:  “When the inspiration to write a song comes, I sit at the piano, a melody forms and then the lyrics flow! I write a lot about love and heartbreak but I’ve never been in love…yet! My dream is to keep writing and singing and for people to get to know and enjoy my music! One day I’d love to do a world tour.

James Bakian

James released a very respectable debut EP By Your Side in 2016, and at the end of 2017 he dropped his second EP Unstoppable. The new EP shows how much his vocals and songwriting have matured in less than two years. On the sultry title track “Unstoppable,” he effortlessly goes from a seductive croon to a yearning falsetto as he pledges his undying love, pleading for her not to hurt him. The warm synths and crisp percussion are beautiful and soothing, a perfect accompaniment to his superb vocals.

Most of his songs are piano-driven compositions, backed with lovely violin-heavy synths, gentle percussion and subtle guitar. On the melancholy “Ain’t Sure,” James emotionally declares “I ain’t sure if I want you more / I’m letting go / You’ve broken me, you tore me up I’m on the floor / I can’t believe how I ever thought you cared about me.”  “Colour” has him extolling the depth of his adoration, pleading for her to let him go if she can’t love him the way he loves her. The uptempo “Know You” features a softly pulsating dance beat, and the funky guitar in the outro is a nice touch. And as always, James’ vocals are flawlessly sublime.

Poison” is a terrific kiss-off song set to a thumping bass-driven dance beat. James rebukes a former lover who’s now toxic for him: “You’re poison, it hurts me. Don’t think I can take this. You destroyed me with your kiss. You gotta leave. I’ll make it, please right now.”  “Red Dress” has him mourning the loss of a girl he loved who’s now left him: “Oh there she goes off to where who knows? But all I know is that she’s gone. Never coming back. Disappeared from view.”

Unstoppable is a wonderful EP, and a fitting description for this supremely talented young man with a big, beautiful voice. James is an ambitious, hard-working guy, and just a few weeks after the release of Unstoppable, he dropped two new singles! I’m certain that his star will only grow brighter as his songwriting and vocal style continue to mature.

Connect with James:  Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream his music on  Spotify / Soundcloud / Apple Music
Purchase on  iTunes

SHIMMER JOHNSON – Single Review: “Getaway”

Singer/songwriter Shimmer Johnson has the voice of an angel. Based in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, Shimmer started out writing and recording Country songs, but has recently drifted toward a more pop-oriented sound. In addition to playing guitar, she’s also a fairly decent pianist. She writes compelling lyrics that speak to the joys and pain we all experience in life, and sets them to hauntingly beautiful piano-driven melodies. Her clear, pitch-perfect vocals skillfully convey the subtle yet powerful emotions expressed in her heartfelt lyrics, allowing us to connect with her songs on a deeply personal level.

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Shimmer has been collaborating with other songwriters, including Michael Jay, John West, Richard Bergman and Relik Gregos, in the creation of her newer songs. She’s recorded five over the past year, in preparation for a new album Pride, scheduled for release in May. One of those songs, released as a single in the summer of 2017, is “Getaway.” Addressing the subject of mental illness, the poignant track offers a positive message of hope and assurance that things will get better.

Everybody needs a little faith, a little love, a little break
A private getaway to collect those thoughts inside
Everybody needs a getaway sometimes
When life is hard and you can’t breathe
And you fall to your knees
Just remember that everything will be OK
When you can’t struggle anymore
You’re giving up, you want no more
Just remember you can breathe

Do yourself a favor and listen to some of her other tracks to more fully appreciate her superb songwriting, piano and vocal talents.

Connect with Shimmer:  Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream her music on Spotify / Reverbnation / Soundcloud / Apple Music
Purchase on Bandcamp or iTunes

WONS PHREELY – Single and Video Review: “The Night Has An Alibi”

Wons Phreely Single Art

I’m a huge fan of Australian-born, and now Los Angeles-based, singer/songwriter Wons Phreely. The talented, hard-working musician has an interesting and unique voice to match his artistic moniker (his birth name is Justin Wonsley). He grew up in Perth, one of the world’s most isolated large cities, where he also felt isolated with regard to his desire to become a successful musician. So, in 2015 he relocated to Los Angeles and quickly immersed himself into the creative artistic environment where he could more fully grow as an artist.

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In 2016, with assistance from his backup band The Horses, he released an excellent single “Stars” (which I reviewed) that addressed his experiences overcoming self-doubt and fear of change, and enabling himself to make the life-altering move from Australia to Los Angeles. In November 2017, he followed up with a sparkling new single “The Night Has An Alibi,” inspired this time by his feelings of being out of place in Perth, and subsequently landing in the accepting artistic community of L.A. The hopeful lyrics speak to embracing all the surprises life has to offer, not letting fear keep you from living life to its fullest:

Daylight creeps in like a kick in the guts and the rush of blood
Check your look in the mirror, are you young enough
Cause it took you so long to get up dancing alone, while all the lights were down
In or you’re out, boy don’t wait around
Sister I know we should settle but I cant live a lie
Too long running, true blood pumping
Man I just get this feeling like I might explode inside
Because the night, the night, the night, the night
The night, the night, has an Alibi

The exuberant track opens with throbbing synths overlying a thumping beat, seemingly channeling “Dancing in the Dark” by Bruce Springsteen, whose music has strongly influenced Phreely. His fervent vocals quickly enter the scene, backed by joyous riffs of jangly chiming guitars that are freaking awesome! A warm saxophone is introduced in the bridge, melding beautifully with the bouncy synths and ramping up the track’s already high energy. The lush wall of sound on the track reminds me of two of my favorite bands – The War on Drugs and Future Islands. Not wanting the song to end, I kept hitting replay.

Phreely has now released a rather creepy but brilliant video for the song. His inspiration came from the webzine NYLON.com when they premiered the single, where they stated it “belongs on the ‘Stranger Things’ soundtrack.”  The idea of ‘strange things’ struck a chord and led him to conceive of the very unusual visual for the song’s video. He explained “Since moving to L.A. I’ve been really engrossing myself in the film making world. I’ve been acting in a bunch of things too, so for this music video I decided to gather a lot of the talented people I’ve met on set, including an amazing cinematographer friend, and with their help I got to direct and produce the strangest video I could think of.

And has he ever! The video opens with a scene of Phreely asleep in bed with his girlfriend. As he awakens, the camera pans down to reveal him as only a head! He’s then shown resting atop the kitchen counter while his girlfriend reads the newspaper. Next she’s carrying him under her arm as she walks down the street, later placing him on the roof of the car as she drives to a club. When the doorman points to a sign notifying patrons of a $10 cover per person, she opens her bag to show him Phreely’s head. Soon he’s situated on the bar trying to down his drink, then his head is knocked off the bar and onto the floor. He ends up being placed on a stool on stage and sings with the band while everyone dances. At dawn, he leaves with another woman he met at the bar as she carries him away, at one point dropping him on the sidewalk! I love his facial expressions throughout the video that manage to make something that could have been creepy be lighthearted and hilarious. Have a look:

Phreely has begun working on a new album with his backing band The Horses, and I can’t wait to hear it! To learn more about him and his music, check out his Website

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