New Song of the Week – SomeRiseSomeFall feat. Anna Mitchell: “Funny Time of Year”

SomeRiseSomeFall (SRSF) is an independent collaborative music project consisting of songwriters, musicians and vocalists based in Cork, Ireland. The brainchild of Michael Fitzgerald, who refers to his project as “a musical eclective producing music for the human condition”, SRSF brings together folk, rock and traditional Irish musicians for the purpose of focusing on the transformational power of music. The ever-evolving collective brings together artists and vocalists such as John Blek, Rowan, Anna Mitchell, Kevin Herron, Marlene Enright and a large cast of musicians with producer Brian Casey, videographer Allie Glynn and artist Riona NI Riagain to interpret & reimagine classic or important songs for unique new recordings.

In addition to being all about the music, SRSF is passionate about many social issues, including raising awareness for, and improving the treatment of, asylum seekers in Ireland, and promoting greater awareness and understanding of mental health issues. Proceeds from SRSF’s music go towards charitable groups who are helping with both of these issues. Their music is available for download/purchase from http://www.somerisesomefall.com and all online music sites.

SRSF released their debut album Some Climb in 2017 via FITZZ Records, featuring musicians Martin Leahy, Hank Wedel, Edel Sullivan, Annette Buckley and Ger Wolfe (which you can listen to on Spotify). Last February (2020) they released the emotionally-charged “The Rain Came Down on Everything“, the first single from their forthcoming album No Simple Highway, due for release on February 26th. Fitzgerald stated that the guiding philosophy of the album is “to connect and uplift those dealing with the challenges of love, loss and grief, and I and the musicians involved are convinced of the positive effect of connecting people to their own emotions and through this, discovering empathy and kindness.” They’ve since continued to release more singles, the latest of which is “Funny Time of Year“, a stunning and bluesy song I’m delighted to choose as my New Song of the Week.

“Funny Time Of Year” was written by Beth Gibbons (of Portishead) and Paul Webb (aka Rustin Man, and former bassist of Talk Talk), and originally released on their 2002 album Out Of Season. Like the previous SRSF single “The Rain Came Down On Everything”, “Funny Time of Year” features captivating vocals, piano and keyboards by Anna Mitchell (whose wonderful self-titled album I reviewed three years ago), Hugh Dillon on acoustic and electric guitars, Brian Hassey on bass, David Murphy on steel guitar and Davy Ryan on drums and percussion. The song was produced and mixed by Brian Casey at Wavefield Studios and mastered by Richard Dowling at Wav Mastering. Proceeds from sales of the single will go to the Cork Simon Community, a local homeless shelter in Cork City.

Everything about “Funny Time of Year” is perfection, from the stellar arrangement, intricate bluesy guitars, subtle bass line, and lush keyboards to those achingly beautiful and pedal steel chords that at times sound almost like they’re weeping. It all works to create a melancholy, yet sublime, soundscape. Then there’s Anna’s gorgeous, vibrato-tinged vocals that beautifully convey an intense vulnerability and sense of sad resignation as she laments over a lost love. I didn’t think Anna and company could top “The Rain Came Down on Everything“, but they’ve succeeded quite nicely.

These silent words of conversation
Hold me now this adulation
See me now
Oh it’s easy now

Falling like a silent paper
Holding on to what may be

And I only hear
Only hear the rain

And many rains turn to rivers
Winter’s here
And there ain’t nothing gonna change
The winds are blowing telling me all I hear
Oh it’s a funny time of year
There’ll be no blossom on the trees

Turning now I see no reason
The voice of love so out of season
I need you now
But you can’t see me now
I’m travelling with no destination
Still hanging on to what may be

It’s a funny time of year
I can see
There’ll be no blossom on the trees
And time spent cryin’ has taken me in this year
Oh it’s a funny time of year
There’ll be no blossom on the trees

Falling like a silent paper
Holding on to what may be
It’s a funny time of year

I can see
There’ll be no blossom on the trees
And time spent cryin’ has taken me in this year

Turning now I see no reason
The voice of love so out of season
I need you now
But you can’t see me now
I’m travelling with no destination
Still hanging on to what may be

To learn more about SomeRiseSomeFall, check out their Website and follow them on:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram

Purchase on BandcampWebsite

LYIA META – Single Review: “Now I Know the Reason Why”

lyia meta2

One of my favorite female vocalists is Malaysian singer-songwriter Lyia Meta, who I’ve featured a number of times on this blog over the past two and a half years. (You can read my previous reviews listed under “Related” at the end of this post.) Based in Kuala Lumpur, Lyia is an astonishingly talented, gracious and lovely woman, with a dazzling powerhouse voice to match. (She’s also a highly accomplished visual artist, and last year did a wonderful pencil drawing of me, which was very flattering to say the least!)

With her deep, smoky and resonant vocal style, and masterful ability to cover multiple genres ranging from blues and hard rock to pop and country with ease, she’s become an international music star, winning numerous music awards over the past several years, including the 2018 Josie World Music Artist Award, which was presented to her in Nashville, Tennessee. More recently, her song “All of My Love” has been nominated for an International Portuguese Music Awards People’s Choice Award in two categories.

While Lyia often writes her own songs, she also collaborates with other songwriters and musicians from time to time, not only to broaden her own musical horizons, but also to support other songwriters. With that in mind, for her latest single “Now I Know the Reason Why” she collaborated with songwriters Mike Jones and Jerry Jake Howard, Sr. The song was inspired by a true story and written from first hand experience, and although it’s not Lyia’s own story, the powerful lyrics strongly resonated with her. The song was produced by R. Gary Farmer, who also played organ and keyboards. Session musicians Michael Headrick played steel and lead guitar, Chips Roland played bass and Al Samples played drums.

“Now I Know the Reason Why” is a beautiful, blues-soaked country song about the sorrow and pain that comes from losing someone you love to another. The bittersweet lyrics are from the point of view of a woman seeing the man she loves marry another woman. It’s the kind of heartbreaking torch song Patsy Cline could have sung back in her day, and Lyia’s marvelous heart-wrenching and bluesy vocal performance makes us believe she’s lived every word of it. Listening to her sing, it’s easy to think she’s from Nashville rather than Kuala Lumpur. The instrumentals and music arrangement are superb, and I especially love the terrific organ, piano and steel guitar that give the track its wonderful country flavor. It’s a great song.

I saw my baby with her yesterday
Oh how it hurts, it was his wedding day
I saw my love walk down the aisle
I heard the words they had to say
I heard them say ’til death do us part’
Every word was hurting my heart
And I saw the way he kissed her
And how he held her so tight

I saw the way he held her hand in his
And lord, all I could do was cry
Because I’m losing the one who loves me
And now I know the reason why

I saw the way he kissed her
And I saw the look in her eyes
And then I heard them say ‘I do’
And all I could do was cry

I saw my love walk down the aisle with his new love
And then I watched them drive away
Lord I lost my true love on that day
And now I know, yes now I know the reason why

Connect with Lyia: Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream her music on Spotify / Soundcloud / Apple Music / Reverbnation
Purchase on iTunes / AmazonGoogle Play

YOU’RE AMONG FRIENDS – Album Review: “Start Making Sense”

You're Among Friends Start Making Sense

Cleveland, Ohio-based band You’re Among Friends are most definitely among friends at this blog. Their laid back style of funky, blues-infused folk rock seems to channel Steely Dan, The Grateful Dead and even a bit of Elvis Costello, and always makes for a pleasurable listen. That comforting low-key vibe, combined with their thoughtful, down-to-earth lyrics about this crazy thing we call life, has a way of making me feel that everything’s gonna be alright. And boy, we can all use more of that right now!

I’ve had the pleasure of featuring them twice on this blog, first in June 2017, when I reviewed their 2016 album As We Watch the Years Go…, and again in January 2018 when I reviewed their EP One Day You’ll Look Back. (You can read those reviews by clicking on the links under “Related” at the bottom of this page.) They’ve just released their latest album Start Making Sense, which dropped May 8.  It’s their first release in two and a half years, and they sound better than ever.

You’re Among Friends was born in 2007 when guitarist and vocalist Anthony Doran and bassist Kevin Trask – who’d both played together in another band – rechristened it with a new name and began reworking songs from the previous band’s repertoire. They released their debut self-titled album in 2007, then soon followed up with an EP and double single. As the demands of life, work and starting a family took more of their time, however, the band went on a hiatus in 2011 that lasted four years. Once they reconnected in 2015, they began working on the album As We Watch the Years Go…, with songs inspired by their life experiences as well as the passage of time and how it affected friendships, relationships, and the band itself. Their follow-up EP One Day You’ll Look Back continued to explore some of the themes first addressed by the album.

Like more than a few bands, You’re Among Friends has struggled since their beginnings to find and keep drummers. They’re now on their seventh drummer in the person of Mike Janowitz, who appears to be a perfect fit. In a recent interview with Jeff Niesel of Cleveland Scene, Anthony commented “Mike is great. We have had some drummers who are great technical drummers and skilled, but they often treat us like we’re a stepping stone to the next gig. And then, we’ve had some cool, nice guy drummers, who aren’t that great at drumming. Mike is the best of both worlds. He’s the best drummer we’ve ever played with.”

You're Among Friends composite

Anthony wrote the music and lyrics for most of the songs, and all three members worked out the arrangements together. They began recording songs together for Start Making Sense this past January and early February at Kevin’s house prior to the COVID-19 outbreak. Anthony later overdubbed his guitar parts and vocals at his home from late February through early April, then Kevin mixed the recordings from late April through early May at his home. Anthony noted: “We haven’t been in the same room since February. It’s really weird, but we kept going with the album and let it happen naturally.” Mike came up with the album title, and Kevin designed the artwork using a photograph he took during one of their sessions.

Opening track “Trying to Take It All In” speaks to the pressures of trying to keep up with the constant flood of information that can be downright overwhelming these days, and coming to the conclusion that’s it’s really not all that important in the end: “Things move fast these days. And folks who try to say if you’re not keeping up the pace, you’re in the wane. But I’m beginning to think that I could handle the shame. Getting kicked out of the race might be okay. But if I ever move too slow, you should probably know I’m trying to take it all in. It doesn’t matter who’s the fastest, when there’s this much information to process. The avalanche rolling down the mountain is gonna bury us all just the same.

Their song titles let us know exactly what the songs are about, and I really enjoy the almost conversational flow of their lyrics, which are easy to understand and relate to. On the toe-tapping “Waiting For Life to Start Making Sense” they tell us to lighten up a bit and not take everything so seriously: “Take life as it comes. Don’t get uptight. Just keep moving on. Never know about what’s coming next. Seems like the worst could turn out to be the best.” I like Anthony’s guitar noodling on the track as he lays down a catchy little riff, as well as his endearing vocals that remind me of Randy Newman.

The short and sweet “Once the Toothpaste is Out of its Tube” uses a simple but brilliant metaphor to describe how our words and actions can sometimes have more impact than we might realize: “Stuff you put out into the world, might come back around to you. So don’t forget what happens once the toothpaste comes out of its tube.” “Why Do I Dwell on Things?” asks why some of us (me included) focus on the negative rather than all the good things in our lives. “Why do I dwell on things that I can’t change? What good does it do, it just winds me up, and life has to go on anyway.” The funky guitars and bass on this track are really good.

One of my favorite tracks on the album is “Hills You’re Willing to Die On“, not only for Kevin’s wonderful bass-driven groove and Mike’s jazzy drums, but also its message about how so many people today choose to blindly cling to their political beliefs: “Carefully choose the hills you’re willing to die on. Those coattails you ride on get more torn and frayed by the day.” About the song, Anthony explained to Cleveland Scene: “It was during the impeachment hearings that the lyrics came to me. We’re all divided, and we can’t communicate any more because we’re all set in our ways.”

The first thing we hear on “Just Keep Being Nice” are the faint spoken words “That does not count against me. This is the one.” Whether intentional or not, it reveals, to me at least, how funny and real these guys are. They also serve up more funky guitars and jazzy rhythms as Anthony advises us to not let the blowhards and assholes get to us:  “Life is too short to give anything they say a second thought. Smile and pretend you agree that their message has value and meaning as it goes in one ear and out the other. Just keep being nice. And pretend to play the game. Act like you want to win, although none of this means anything.”

On the sweet “On Again, Off Again“, they touch on how some friendships and even love affairs can wax and wane, yet endure through time: “We go from the closest of friends  to the coldest of strangers. But whenever we find our way back here again it seems like no time has passed and nothing’s changed between us.” From a musical standpoint, “String a Few Nice Words Together” is one of my favorites, as I love Anthony’s funky guitars and Kevin & Mike’s cool, jazzy rhythms. The lyrics, however, speak to the singer’s shortcomings with regard to his actions not living up to his words: “Talk is cheap, but that’s always been good enough for me. I understand when you say that my apologies don’t mean anything because things never change. They always go right back to the way they were before.”

Kevin wrote the lyrics for the final track “My Best Friend Is Never Coming Home“. It’s a poignant song about remembering a best friend who’s gone: “So much has changed since you left us. I’ve got kids now. You would have loved them. They would have loved you too. But now you’re gone. I’m all alone. My best friend is never coming home.” It has a languid melody that suits the wistful lyrics quite well, without sounding maudlin or depressing.

With Start Making Sense, You’re Among Friends have delivered yet another thoughtful and pleasing album for us to enjoy. As their name implies, it’s like the return of an old friend with whom we’re able to pick right back up from where we left off. And that, my friends, is a mighty good thing indeed.

Connect with You’re Among Friends:  Blog / Facebook / Twitter
Stream their music:  Spotify / Napster / Google Play / YouTube
Purchase:  Bandcamp / iTunes / Amazon

SAMUEL ASHTON – EP Review: “Spreading Light”

Samuel Ashton EP

Samuel Ashton is a singer/songwriter based in Canterbury, England, who makes what he beautifully refers to as “acoustic soul.” Drawing inspiration from such artists as Michael Kiwanuka, Paolo Nutini, Leon Bridges and Nathaniel Rateliff, Samuel blends smooth blues, soul and country to create uplifting and powerful songs. He’s also spent years travelling around the world, and the various different cultures he experienced and came to embrace also strongly influence his music.

In January, he released his debut EP Spreading Light through independent label 2728 Records, and received a warm response at his EP launch show in Canterbury on the 19th. He’s also been playing at venues throughout Kent and southeast England, including Brighton and London, and is currently booking future shows throughout England for this Spring.

Samuel Ashton

First up is the title track “Spreading Light“, a moving and hopeful song about staying positive in the face of adversity and troubled times, and spreading truth and goodness through our actions. The song’s melody is rather simple, driven by a strummed acoustic guitar and light percussion, but a closer listen reveals lots of added subtle textures such as somber piano keys, bluesy electric guitar and delicate, moody synths. In his deep and resonant vocals, Samuel urgently sings “Said we got to keep on spreading light. Even in the dark and lonesome night, we gotta keep on spreading light. Oh how I moan, when my heart feels woe when there’s such injustice and pain.”

Send Me Angels” has a bit of a gospel feel, with a prominent organ providing the basis of the melody, and Samuel’s emotional vocals pleading “Send me angels, come on save my soul.” I like the way he uses both acoustic and jangly electric guitars to achieve a fuller, multi-textured sound. On the slow and bluesy “Freedom Never Lies“, his intricate layered guitar work is outstanding, creating a sultry mood for his soulful, fervent vocals. He sings about surrendering oneself freely to passion: “There’s a light that’s shining in your eyes. There’s a fire that burns inside you that you just can’t disguise. Let it burn. Freedom never lies. / I’m so close to the edge, I’m still wanting more.”

Love is in the Sun” is an uplifting folk song about the presence of love everywhere we look and in everything we do. “Love is in the earth, love is in the sea. Love is in the power, power that heals.” The track has a pleasing gospel-like melody, with acoustic guitar and gentle hand claps. The Americana song “Medicine Music” speaks to the healing powers of music, something I think everyone who loves and appreciates music can attest to. “Healing my soul, my heart is full of love./ Medicine music, purify me. Medicine music, show me freedom. Medicine music heals.” The backing choruses have a Native American sound, as if being sung by a Shaman. And once again, Samuel’s guitar prowess is on full display, as his riff that closes out the track is marvelous.

Spreading Light is a wonderful EP and a fine debut effort from this thoughtful and talented musician who’s intent on spreading his positive message of love and healing in our troubled times. Samuel’s compelling lyrics, outstanding guitar work and soulful vocals make for pleasing songs you want to hear again and again.

To learn more about Samuel, check out his Website
Connect with him on  Facebook / Instagram / Twitter
Stream his music on  Spotify / Soundcloud / Apple Music
Purchase on  iTunes

HANNAH CLIVE – Single Review: “Remember to Breathe”

Hannah Clive2

Hannah Clive is a lovely and charming singer/songwriter based in London, UK, and I’ve been meaning to feature her on this blog for a while. Influenced by such legendary ladies of song as Adele, Carole King, Kate Bush and Janis Ian, Hannah writes heartfelt songs that cross many genres, including indie rock, folk, pop, alt-country, blues and even a bit of jazz. She released a gorgeous single “Remember to Breathe” in November 2017, and I’m finally getting around to reviewing this wonderful song.

The track opens with an ominous synth chord that draws us in, then Hannah’s exquisite piano riff enters and we’re instantly hooked. Wow, this is stunning! A delicious assortment of sparkling synths are added along with subtle guitar and gentle percussion, courtesy of producer Brian Tench, creating a dreamy soundscape that’s the perfect backdrop for Hannah’s captivating vocals. I’m blown away by her ability to seduce us one moment, then nearly move us to tears the next. It’s all incredibly breathtaking, so her admonition for us to ‘remember to breathe’ is entirely apropos! The song is so utterly mesmerizing that I keep hitting replay.

The lyrics speak to the concept of having faith and believing in yourself, casting aside obstacles that try to stand in your way, and finding your own truth and path in life:

And when the power of love is greater than the love of power
So it’s said, then my friends we might find some peace
And though it sounds naive –
It’s a direction in which I could set my feet…but just
Remember to breathe

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

CuriousHour – EP Review: “Explore”

Curious Hour ep

If you like soulful, blues-soaked rock accompanied by raw, passionate female vocals, then you should be listening to the music of UK band  CuriousHour. Formed two years ago, the London-based four-piece consists of guitarist Andy Grazebrook, vocalist Emily Grazebrook, drummer Wal Srankiewicz and bassist Aaron McIntosh. In July, 2017 they released their superb debut EP Explore, which I have the pleasure of reviewing today.

The first track “Lailah” arrives on sound waves of fuzzy guitars, strutting drums and a humming bass line. Then, Emily’s rich, bluesy vocals enter the scene and within seconds I’m blown away. Wow, what a voice she has! The kind of voice that demands your attention. She seems to channel the raw soulfulness of Tina Turner, the bluesy feels of Amy Winehouse, and the unrestrained passion of Janis Joplin. On “Lailah,” a palpable sense of tension and uncertainty simmers beneath the seeming coolness of her voice, occasionally piercing the surface as she croons about not knowing which direction to take: “Solo, solo, solo. Walking, walking walking. Don’t know, don’t know which way to go.” As the track progresses, Andy lays down some nimble guitar work, while Aaron gently strums his bass. It’s a great song.

The next track “Yield” is positively sublime. The guys are in perfect sync on their respective instruments, and Emily raises goosebumps as she fervently wails the lyrics expressing the depths of her hunger for another’s love: “I would do anything if you only lay your hands on me. / I’d cause a tidal wave to charge, wipe out all of humanity. Send them streaming from the land. Swallow them up into the sea. So that I could be with you. Oh I would give you the world if you’d love me.”

One of the things that strikes me as I listen to the EP is how beautifully each track flows into the next, sustaining the spell that CuriousHour have cast upon our ears, minds and souls. At times their bluesy sound reminds me a bit of Jefferson Airplane and Big Brother & the Holding Company. “Geraldine” is mesmerizing, and once again, Emily’s vocals are breathtaking. And no more so than on “Wanted,” where her jaw-dropping vocal gymnastics are on full display. She alternately seduces, snarls and wails the lyrics that speak to a detestable scoundrel: “You’re so quick on the draw, even your horse hates ya. Price on my head. Don’t stop til I’m dead. / You’re above the law but even your momma hates ya. How much to walk away?” The guitars, bass and drums on this epic track are all pretty amazing too.

The band dials up the energy on “Dark Surf,” a rousing rock’n’roll song with awesome fuzzy guitar work and thunderous drumming that make for an exciting listen. Two thirds in, the tempo slows to a languid, bluesy lull in the bridge, before ramping back up to full speed for an exhilarating finish. Emily’s refrain of “rise and fall” is an apt description of the song.

Explore is a wonderful EP that gets better with every listen, and every track is fantastic. There’s a lot of nuance in Andy’s intricate guitar work, Aaron’s subtle bass and Wal’s expert drumming, and each time I was able to detect something new I’d missed previously. Then there’s Emily’s mind-blowing vocals, which I could never tire of hearing.

CuriousHour have been gigging regularly ever since their inception, spreading their noise around London, the south of England and around the UK with plans to play in Europe. In the meantime, those of you in the UK can catch them at one of these upcoming shows:

JULY 11 7:30 & 10:30 PM  CURIOUSHOUR @ THE DUBLIN CASTLE

AUG 25 7:00 PM  NESTIVAL, The Birds Nest, London

Connect with CuriousHour:  Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music:  Spotify / Apple Music / Soundcloud
Purchase:  iTunes / Bandcamp

LYIA META – Single Review: “Without Walls”

Without Walls cover art

I receive lots of submissions from artists and bands asking me to listen to their music or, hopefully, write a review of it. Most of the time the music is decent or better, and I rarely turn anyone down (which is why I’m always running behind schedule). But every so often, I’m immediately blown away the moment I hear their music. Such is the case with Malaysian singer/songwriter Lyia Meta, a lovely woman with a voice to match. Her rich, soulful vocal style is impressive, with a powerful arresting quality reminiscent of the legendary Shirley Bassey.

Lyia released her debut EP This is Lyia in 2016 to wide acclaim, garnering airplay on radio stations in Europe, as well as indie internet music radio stations in the UK, U.S., Germany and Australia, including Radio Wigwam (UK), Home of Rock Germany, LA Rocks Radio, Banks Radio Australia and many more. In August of 2017, she won the award for Best Female Artist from Radio Wigwam. In January of this year, she dropped a new single “Without Walls,” and it’s fantastic.

The track opens with soft, mysterious synths and Lyia pensively singing “I’m thinking of yesterday. She’ll find a way. And everything I remember, would stay. ‘Cause life without walls, feels like it’s love.” The music builds into a powerful soundscape of shimmering synths and a sensual, bass-driven dance beat, while Lyia’s smoldering vocals raise goosebumps as they soar to the heavens. Those moments of exuberance alternate with interludes of relative calm, where lovely synths with piano and strings dominate. She sings: “Forever in my mind, forever in my heart. Promises that came undone. We played it from the start. This life without walls. It feels like it’s love. We’re bending rules and skipping stones. Know your worth.” It’s a gorgeous song that I guarantee will have you on your feet dancing and hitting the replay button.

Lyia is also an accomplished visual artist. Check out her work on her art website.

Connect with Lyia: Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream her music on Spotify / Soundcloud / Apple Music / Reverbnation
Purchase on iTunes / Amazon

CARBONWORKS – Video Premier: “End of the World Suite Part 3: The End”

CarbonWorks is not your typical band. It’s more a collective of talented session musicians, headed by its creator and guitarist Neal Barnard – who also happens to be a world-renowned medical doctor. Based in Washington, D.C., the band’s music is a unique fusion of rock, contemporary classical, jazz, blues and avant-garde, giving their sound an uncommon breadth and depth. With delicate melodies over driving rhythms, blues overlying classical strings, and frequent use of non-English lyrics, their songs defy categorization. As Neal Barnard explains, their unconventional time meters “tilt the song ever so slightly and give you that little jolt between the ears.

CarbonWorks2

The band released their extraordinary debut self-titled album CarbonWorks in December 2016 to rave reviews, and have been periodically releasing a new video for one of the album tracks.  In May 2017, I premiered the video for their gorgeous track “Monaco,” and am now delighted to premier their new videos for “End of the World Suite Part 3: The End” as well as “End of the World Suite Part 4: Winged Victory.” As indicated by their titles, the beautiful tracks are the completion of an ambitious four-part suite.

“Part 1: The Beginning of the End” is a mix of contemporary classical and rock, while “Part 2: Love and Illusion” combines classical, folk and jazz elements. For “Part 3: The End,” progressive jazz is the predominant element. The generous use of strings, including violin, cello and bass, combined with the gorgeous jazzy saxophone, guitar and drums, result in a truly stunning track. Barnard describes the track thusly: “Part 3 (“The End”) launches with cool bebop bass played by Jeff Reed. Russell jumps in on sax, with Mike on drums and me on guitar. Then the strings come in bringing a baroque element that somehow works with the driving jazz.” Although it’s six minutes long, it’s so wonderful that it seems over far too soon.

The suite ends with “Part 4: Winged Victory,” a brief but lovely track with a complex mix of classical and rock overtones, and features the dan tranh, a traditional Vietnamese instrument that’s similar to a Japanese koto. It also features sublime vocals sung in Latin by Italian singer Naif Herin, who ends with the words ” Beati pauperes spiritu, Beati pacifici,” which translated means “Blessed are the poor in spirit, blessed are the peacemakers.”

Both videos show the band performing the songs, which I always enjoy seeing.

Connect with CarbonWorks:  Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music on  Soundcloud / Pandora / Apple Music
Purchase on  iTunes / Amazon

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

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.”

Here’s an electrifying live performance of “Dog Track” with the Cork Opera House Concert Orchestra.

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