ALEXIS GERRED – Single Review: “Sweet Angel”

Alexis Gerred

Alexis Gerred is a hard-working, multi-faceted artist based in London, UK. A seasoned performer, he has appeared in numerous stage productions in The West End, on national television, and on various tours around the UK and Asia for over 10 years. Some of those productions include American Idiot, Our House, Dreamboats and Petticoats, The West End Men, Rooms, and many more. He loves being creative in any area of performance, but his true passion lies with singing. He explains “Having grown up listening to some of the greatest musicians of all time, I’ve always dreamed of someone enjoying my own music in the same way. Over the past ten years I’ve been lucky enough to receive some incredible support through TV and theatre, but I’m excited to show everyone who I am as an individual, rather than the part or role I’m playing.

Alexis album

Alexis has penned numerous pop/rock songs over the past several years for what will be his debut album Alexis. Ranging from hard-hitting ballads to catchy up-tempo tunes, his songs are influenced by some of his favorite artists like Train, Goo Goo Dolls, 3 Doors Down, Gavin DeGraw and Walk the Moon, as well as the legendary Queen, Rod Stewart, Bad Company and Michael Jackson. He’s recorded the first two songs, “Sweet Angel” and “Hold You Close,” and is now appealing to fans and supporters to help him cover some of the costs of producing the album through a crowdfunding campaign which, at the time of this review, has raised 60% of the goal thus far.

To coincide with the launch of the crowdfunding campaign, Alexis has released his first single “Sweet Angel,” a beautiful, uplifting song about unconditional love and support. Originally written as a thank you to his parents for their support and guidance, Alexis says it now also reflects how he wishes to bring up his own children. “My parents have been a constant support, always showing me the way forward in whatever situation I found myself in, and I like to think I am now offering that same love and guidance for my own children. Having said that, I hope anyone who has received support from others during tough times will relate to the lyrics of ‘Sweet Angel’.”

Layers of gorgeous chiming and fuzzy guitars, delicate piano and just the right balance of percussion provide the perfect backdrop for Alexis’ heartfelt vocals on the track. And what beautiful vocals they are – raw and intensely passionate one moment, then a gentle falsetto the next – as he sings the stirring lyrics “I know you’re falling. I see you falling deeper down. I’ll show you how to fly with broken wings. Sweet Angel.

The heartwarming video shows scenes of Alexis performing the song against a black background, interspersed with film footage of him and his family when he was a baby and later at various stages in his childhood. By the end, he’s shown in the present with his own two young children.

Connect with Alexis:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Pre-order his debut album Alexis at http://www.alexisgerred.co.uk/
Crowdfunding link: https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/alexis-the-debut-album-rock#/

GHOSTLY BEARD – Album Review: “Inward”

I’ve noted in previous posts that one of the things I like about Twitter is the huge amount of new music I’m exposed to from the many musicians and bands who follow me. And in addition to all the terrific music, I’ve also had the pleasure of getting to know some truly kind and generous people who I can call friends. They’ve not only supported me and my blog, they’ve also shown themselves to be strong supporters of other artists. One of those musicians is singer/songwriter Patrick Talbot, who goes by the artistic name Ghostly Beard.

Somewhat of an enigma, Ghostly Beard is originally from France but now calls Montréal, Québec, Canada home. Preferring the focus to be entirely on his music rather than him, he’s chosen to remain physically anonymous, so he never shows his image on any of his albums or social media, nor does he perform live. That said, he’s a creative and talented songwriter and multi-instrumentalist with a lot to tell us, which he expresses so beautifully through his intelligent lyrics, sublime vocals and dreamy, mellow soundscapes that draw from soft rock, jazz, pop, progressive rock and fusion, among other influences. When listening to his music, one can hear his inspiration from such legendary artists and bands as Steely Dan, Pink Floyd, Michael Franks, James Taylor, Cat Stevens, Genesis, XTC, and Weather Report.

Ghostly Beard has been a busy man, recording and releasing lots of music over the past year or so, including his superb album Invisible, which dropped last October (of 2017). More recently, he’s released two new songs that will be featured on his forthcoming album Inward, which is scheduled to drop on May 4th, and the subject of this review. The album contains ten tracks that have more of a soft-rock vibe than the jazzier Invisible, though jazz elements are still well-represented on Inward.

Like all his music, the album is entirely self-produced.  He wrote all the music and lyrics, played all instruments, and recorded, mixed and mastered the songs at his own Studio GB in Montréal. He sang all vocals, other than for guest vocals provided by Emma Caiman on “Night Train” and his daughter Sarah Talbot on “Going Away.” The imaginative album cover photography is courtesy of Pol Ùbeda. Also, it must be noted that all proceeds from album sales will be given to MusiCounts – https://www.musicounts.ca/ – a Canadian charity organization that promotes music education through a wide variety of programs, including scholarships and providing musical instruments and equipment to after-school music programs and other community non-profit organizations.

Inward Album

The album opens with “How Does It Feel?” a laid-back tune with rather pensive lyrics about feeling that your life hasn’t mattered…that your existence has made no impact on the world: “When you’re so invisible what do you do in the title role? And when you know it’s far too late to take your place again in the human race. How does it feel? To be less than real.” The gently strummed and chiming guitars, accentuated by just a hint of reverb, are really pleasing, and the electric guitar riff that begins in the bridge and continues through to the end adds a nice complexity to the track. The languid drumbeat is accompanied by lightly crashing cymbals and a sweet xylophone that’s heard throughout the track. Ghostly Beard’s smooth vocals are warm and comforting, and seem to lessen the sting of the unhappy lyrics.

The warmth of his vocals, a major characteristic of his overall sound, are strongly evident on the bittersweet “The Love in Your Eyes,” an easy-going song dedicated to his mother, Christiane. His words beautifully express his feelings of loss and missing her in a way that everyone who’s lost a loved one can identify with: “Out of the blue I felt your absence. And into my heart an empty place. I reached for your light, I couldn’t find it. What would I give to see you now! And I had to say goodbye when I knew it would be for the last time. However hard I tried I couldn’t see all the love in your eyes anymore.”


In addition to his smooth, comforting vocals, another signature element of Ghostly Beard’s music is his layered, multi-textured guitar work that imparts a rich, fuller sound. His skillful use of strummed acoustic guitar alongside chiming and distorted electric guitars, all grounded by subtle bass lines, are exquisitely showcased on tracks like the Country-tinged “Gone,” the soft-rock ballad “Let Go” and the jazzy “It Doesn’t Matter.”  And his ace guitar playing really shines on the sparkling instrumental track “Autumn Blues,” where his fantastic bluesy guitar work seems to channel Steely Dan.

One of my favorite tracks on the album is “Night Train.” The captivating song tells the story of two unhappy people on a train fantasizing about a chance encounter: “We were strangers on the night train riding in the dark. Going nowhere to speak of, just escaping from the past. / And the tears started falling down. Was it yours or was it mine? / As the train was heading north, I thought of all I’ve left behind. Who knows what crossed your mind when your eyes crossed mine?” The dream is disrupted by a explosive riff of distorted guitars, then the music calms back down to its previous languid pace as reality returns: “Never spoke and never will. It all happened in a dream. During that fleeting moment in the world that passed away. / We leave so little trace but a memory in the dark. Ooh, taking the life train. Ooh, riding the long way home.” I love the instrumentals on this track, and Ghostly Beard’s vocal harmonies with Emma Caiman are marvelous.

Another standout is the darkly beautiful “9 to 5 (Barely Alive).” Nearly eight minutes in length, the influence of Pink Floyd is clearly evident, with extended guitar riffs floating above a somber but lovely piano movement. The track opens and closes with the sounds of voices as if at a gathering, adding to the sense of isolation. Ghostly Beard sounds resigned as he wistfully sings of the soul-crushing tedium of a 9 to 5 job: “9 to 5, you leave your soul behind and drag your worried mind to earn your place back in the line. / You’re barely alive. Just another day to make it through. All you do is give your light away.

Let It Rain” is a pretty but very sad song about being heartbroken over a loved one’s betrayal:  “I’ll never trust another one. I need some time to be sane again. My whole being out of hand. Entire world just turned to sand.” Not wanting to end things on a down note, Ghostly Beard delivers upbeat feels on the bouncy album closer “Going Away.” With assistance from his daughter Sarah on backing vocals, he sings about the thrill of getting away from life’s daily routines and problems, and going off on an adventure filled with possibilities. It’s a fitting closing track to an aptly-titled album filled with beautiful, introspective songs.

Track listing:

1. How Does It Feel?
2. The Love in Your Eyes
3. Gone
4. Autumn Blues
5. Night Train
6. Let Go
7. It Doesn’t Matter
8. 9 to 5 (Barely Alive)
9. Let It Rain
10. Going Away

Connect with Ghostly Beard:  Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Purchase his existing music or pre-order Inward on iTunes / Bandcamp / Amazon

ABOVE THE SKYLINE – Album Review: “Fall Right Into Place”

ATS Small album picAlternative rock band Above the Skyline has been making a major impact on the South Florida music scene over the past few years. Beginning with the release of their acclaimed 2015 EP A Different Breed, the Miami-based band followed up with a superb album Go For Broke in 2016 (which I reviewed). They’ve now dropped a terrific new album Fall Right Into Place, and they sound better than ever. Their songwriting and musicality have continued to mature, with more complex melodies, a fuller, more expansive sound, greater confidence in their vocals, and tighter production values.

Making up the band are Eric Green on guitar, Zach Wood on keyboards and vocals, Chloe Santiago on drums, Alec Enriquez on bass, and Sierra Karr on vocals. Having both a male and female lead vocalist is relatively rare among bands, and gives Above the Skyline’s sound a greater vibrancy. And it’s an added bonus when both singers have great voices. This is clearly evident on the lively opening track “Shadow,” where Zach and Sierra sound awesome both individually and together. Their vocals harmonize together so beautifully that they’re a real pleasure to hear. The guitar and drums are on-point, and the glittering keyboards are especially nice.

Above the Skyline2

Next up is “Fears,” a catchy, uptempo song that’s one of the album’s standouts. Once again, Zach and Sierra sound fantastic as they sing about being afraid of getting romantically involved: “What are you afraid of? What are you afraid of darling? Show me what you’re made of. Are you into strange love? If what you fear is what you want, lend me your ear. Do you love me not?” The instrumentals are superb, and I love Alec’s bass riff opener that continues throughout the track. The entertaining video shows a vintage TV screen with footage from horror films interspersed with scenes of the band members acting silly.

The wonderful kiss-off “Empêcher” starts off with a piano riff and military drumbeat, then explodes with Eric’s shredded guitar, Alec’s buzzing bass and Chloe’s crashing cymbals. Zach and Sierra snarl the biting lyrics “You’re a waste of time, no no no. You’re a waste of life, no no no. Tell me what can you do on your own. You’re impeached now, go home!” On the hard-hitting rocker “Do the Same,” the band’s skilled musicianship is on full display. All the instrumentals sound completely in sync, with strong piano keys holding their own with the aggressive layered guitars, bass and drums.

The band’s talent for writing romantic ballads is evidenced by “She Waits,” a beautiful piano-driven song about two lovers separated by time and distance, longing to be together again: “Let me tell you a little story that was made for two. Who knows it all, who is one to judge. All we know for sure is his sweetheart waits for him to get home.” The lush, sweeping orchestration in the bridge is gorgeous, and Zach and Sierra’s soaring heartfelt vocals bring chills. It’s one of my favorite tracks on the album.

At the album’s halfway point is “Kairi’s Melody,” a lovely minute-long instrumental interlude with a Coldplay vibe. The next few tracks showcase the band’s signature piano-driven, high-energy rock sound. “Crazy Place,” “Aegis” and “Breathe In” are fast-paced tunes with some amazing riffs, and Zach and Sierra sound great as always.

The band lets loose on the rousing “No Money,” another one of my favorite album cuts. The song is straight-up rock’n’roll with an exuberant foot-stomping beat pounded out by Chloe’s skilled drumming. The jazzy interlude in the bridge, courtesy of some really fine piano, sax and xylophone, is marvelous. Zach and Sierra fervently wail “We don’t care about your money. We just want your attention.” It’s an awesome track.

The album closes with the pop-rock track “Inside Your Brain.” The band employs all the instruments in their arsenal – keyboards, guitars, bass and drums – plus string synths to create a lush, dynamic soundscape. Zach and Sierra’s impassioned vocals plead for honesty from a loved one in a relationship that’s failing: “If I could pick your brain I’d resolve the things that are better left unsaid / Don’t tell me it’s not too late / Stop playing your game. What can I possibly do to get inside of your brain?

With Fall Right Into Place Above the Skyline delivers another solid, well-crafted album, giving us every indication they’re a band that takes their music seriously while still having fun. I’m happy to have had the opportunity to review both of their albums, and look forward to doing more as their musical journey continues.

Connect with Above the Skyline:  Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music:  Spotify / Soundcloud / Apple Music / Reverbnation
Purchase on:  iTunes / cdbaby

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

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.

Shimmer Johnson2

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

DANCING ON PLUTO – Single Review: “Feels Good”

Dancing on Pluto

It’s always a pleasure to discover a new band or artist whose music I instantly love. Dancing on Pluto is such a band. Formed just a year ago and based in Grand Rapids, Michigan, they’re an alternative rock band consisting of four long time friends Chas (lead vocals), Josh (drums), Gilbert (guitar) and Ishmael (bass). Their fun, energetic music is a blend of their favorite genres, including rock, hip hop, R&B, synth-pop, shoegaze and grunge – to name just a few of the influences I detect in their eclectic sound. They released their debut EP Abandon Ship in 2017, featuring five awesome tracks that I highly recommend my readers check out. They’ve now followed up with a terrific new single “Feels Good”  that immediately blew me away.

In an interview with the web magazine From the Depths Entertainment (which you can read here), the band explained the origin of their name, and what they want listeners to take away from their music:

“The concept, in short, is that Pluto is a planet of unexplored potential. It took until recent to even say it was a planet again. But Pluto is like our music. When you listen to our music, it is much like taking a trip to another planet. You are exploring the planet. But at the same time, you hear the song and they are jams. It makes you wanna dance, jam, tap your feet, or whatever. Thus, the name Dancing on Pluto. Our music is always changing and complicated because people, including us, are always changing and complicated.”

Dancing on Pluto3

Well, complicated is a good thing when music sounds as good as it does on “Feels Good,” which Chas announces with a shout out at the beginning of the track. After a few seconds of tapping drumsticks, a barrage of shredded guitars ensues, along with Chas’ wonderful vocals that sound as smooth as John Legend one minute, then raw and loud the next.  The tempo goes from a mellow, bass-driven groove while he croons “When you’re on your own, take time and deep breaths. And when you’re on your own…”, to a bombastic onslaught of more gritty shredded guitars with the refrain “…you’ll find out it feels good! It’s so good, right on! Get up! Go ahead, get down! Go ahead, right on!

The track seems to end at around 2:50 with the line “I’m having a revelation. Maybe we’re better off alone in the night.” But after a couple seconds, the calm is shattered when Chas lets out a yell, and a barrage of wailing guitars rains down upon us before settling back down at the end. We’re left drained but totally satisfied by this fantastic song that’s candy for the ears.

I love Dancing on Pluto and cannot wait to hear more songs from this incredibly talented young band.

Connect with Dancing on Pluto:  Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music:  Spotify / Soundcloud / Apple Music
Purchase:  iTunes

A BLUE FLAME – Album Review: “When Your Whole World Turns to Dust”

When You're Whole World Turns to Dust

British singer/songwriter Richard Stone – who goes by the artistic name A Blue Flame –tells compelling stories about life, love, faith, loss and heartbreak through poetic, heartfelt lyrics and sublime melodies. And though he’s not as concerned about the music or sound of his songs as he is the lyrics, I think they sound just right. His songs reflect an eclectic range of styles from doo-wop and old-school pop to easy listening ballads, folk and rock. Plus, his smooth, clear vocals are pleasing to the ear and perfectly suit his thoughtful lyrics.

Following up on his phenomenal 2016 album What We’ve Become is All That Now Remains, which I reviewed, A Blue Flame dropped When Your Whole World Turns to Dust at the end of September 2017. (he does seem to like long album titles!) He takes a somewhat darker tone on this album; many of the song lyrics are sad or bittersweet, speaking to failed relationships, regret, or disillusionment with the state of things. And yet they’re lovely to listen to and never depressing, offering glimmers of optimism and hope.

He writes all his songs and plays guitar on all the tracks. He arranges them with assistance from Adam Ellis, who co-produces and also plays guitar.  Other session musicians add their skills to the mix as needed, including Damon Claridge on drums, Andy Robertson on bass and keyboards, and Tony Robinson on keyboards and horns.

A Blue Flame 2

Back to the Stars” kicks things off with a languid tempo that feels rather like a sad slow dance, as a somber trumpet takes center stage. Soft tinkling of piano keys, a lightly strummed acoustic guitar and gentle snare drums complete the music. With an air of melancholy in his voice, A Blue Flame croons a message of hope and redemption: “When your whole world turns to dust. And all that you’ve known lies shattered and torn in undiluted sorrow. Look at the sky up above and know that you’re loved. Look up and know that you’re loved. And we’ll go back to the stars.”

The sad theme continues with “We Feel Like We Feel,” a beautiful but wistful song with layers of twangy strummed guitars, organ and a soft snare drum. The poignant lyrics speak to a relationship in which the feelings that once drew them together have drained away, leaving them feeling emotionally empty:  “Fleeting bittersweet memory. We found things that you can’t see. Every day we wake up wondering how the day starts. All we can feel is the cold of the steel in our hearts.” “Don’t Wait” is an uptempo pop tune with jangly guitar, piano and smooth trumpet.  A Blue Flame urges us to not waste any more time clinging to fear, self-doubt and regret, and to just “Strip off, dive in and swim.”

One of my favorites is “21st Century Blues,” a catchy song with a hook that would make Burt Bacharach proud. Tony Robinson’s bold trumpet has a starring role, with keyboards, piano and guitar adding to the great instrumental mix. The lively rock guitar riff in the bridge gives the track an extra jolt of energy.

The Future’s a Mystery” is a lovely little song about not worrying about what the future may bring, and just enjoying what we have now: “The future’s a mystery, let’s get on with living today.” A slow doo-wop beat and a beguiling trumpet are defining elements of the hopeful “A Better Way.” A Blue Flame advocates a solution for getting out of our funk: “All we need are easy days to chase the blues away. Let’s find a better way.”

One of the prettiest but also saddest tracks is “The Words Wouldn’t Form” a bittersweet song about feeling heartbroken over someone who’s left you for another. A Blue Flame’s doleful vocals convey a deep sadness as he sings: “I don’t know why I could not say goodbye. Darling I don’t know why the words wouldn’t form.” Musically the song features a gentle strummed guitar, lovely flute and xylophone, and the backing chorus is beautiful. A celtic-sounding flute and acoustic guitar are a sweet backdrop on “All We Need to Know.” The lyrics speak to the honest realization that a relationship was not going to survive. With a hint of cynicism, he admonishes us not to take life so seriously on the peppy “Everything’ s a Lie.” “There’s no need to cry when everything’s a lie. Nothing makes sense anymore. Show me the door.”

A Blue Flame rocks out on the next two tracks. “Empty Head” is a great, hard-hitting song in which he concludes that ignorance is bliss: “Nothing springs to mind. Empty head is here again.” The edgy “See What Tomorrow Brings” is terrific, incorporating touches of psychedelia and punk, and is a song David Bowie could have done. It features heavy guitars, bass and drums, and the distorted guitar riff at the end is awesome. It’s another of my favorites on the album.

The album closes on an optimistic note with “Love Will Set Us Free,” a beguiling song with a similar smooth, slow tempo as the opening track. The piano work is especially sublime, as are A Blue Flame’s vocals and the backing chorus. It’s a fitting end to a unique and wonderful album. His lyrics, music and vocals meld together perfectly, and the album’s production values and music arrangements are outstanding on every level. It all makes for a really beautiful and highly satisfying listen.

Connect with A Blue Flame:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream his music:  Spotify / Soundcloud / Apple Music
Purchase:  cdbaby / iTunes

VERITY WHITE – Album Review: “Breaking Out”

Verity White Album

Verity White is a singer/songwriter from Cheltenham, UK, and can this woman rock! She plays a bluesy style of alternative rock which, combined with the ferocity of her sultry vocal styling that at times reminds me of Pat Benatar and Joan Jett, makes for a hell of an exciting listen. Verity has been a backing vocalist with the UK band Pendragon, and performed with them on their European tour in 2017. Last November, she released her debut full-length album Breaking Out, which serves as a bold metaphor for this evolutionary next step in her career. With assistance from her husband Alex on guitars and production, Breaking Out delivers 10 stellar tracks.

Verity White

The album kicks off with the audaciously sexy title track “Breaking Out.” Gritty, blues-infused guitars engage in a seductive dance with the steamy bass line and drum beat. The tinkling piano keys in the bridge accentuate Verity’s sultry vocals as she defiantly declares her independence: “I’m worth more than you know. I’m stronger than you know, and I’m better on my own.” Indeed she is, and who are we to argue!

Verity’s amazing vocal range is showcased on “Zeroes and Ones,” where she really seems to channel Pat Benatar. It’s one of the album’s standout tracks, with fantastic instrumentals that complement her powerful vocals that go from soothing to raw.  The dark “Demons in Your Head” offers up fuzzy synths and a heavy buzzing bass line set to a thumping beat. The song’s lyrics speak to personal struggles with emotional issues: “Pop another pill into your mouth. Crumbling because you can’t let it out. Every day’s a constant struggle with the demons in your head. Trying to control you, so you just go back to bed instead.”

Verity let’s her rock goddess alter ego loose on the rousing “I Don’t Care.” With raw energy in her vocals, she sings about not giving a damn and casting aside all self-control on a night of partying: “Gonna drink ’til I can’t remember my name. Gonna drink ’til I can’t be the one to blame.”

See Through” features Alex’s beautiful intricate guitars, mesmerizing synths and Verity’s beguiling vocals, all set to a melodic dance beat. It’s a great song, and one of my favorite tracks on the album. The synth-heavy “Face It” is another gem, and Alex really shines as he lays down lots of gritty riffs. The duo pull out all the stops on the raw, melodically complex “Exhale.” Damn if this isn’t another standout track! Mysterious sweeping synths, snarling guitars, loads of crashing cymbals and a pulse-pounding bass line work in tandem to create a speaker-blowing soundscape. Add generous amounts of Verity’s passionate soaring vocals and you’ve got all the ingredients to raise goosebumps.

Your Darkest Secret” is a hard-driving rocker, with more of Alex’s shredded guitars and Verity’s saucy vocals, while the bluesy “Slow Fall” brings a hypnotic piano riff backed by fuzzy guitars and thumping drums. Album closer “Overcome” is a terrific rock song with awesome multi-layered guitar work. With her raw and sultry vocals on full display, Verity sings “Let the feeling overcome you. Til they’re right into the core. Changing all our dark perceptions. As you ask again for more. Why can’t I feel this way without you?

Breaking Out is a superb debut for Verity White, showcasing not only her mind-blowing vocal abilities, but also her skill for writing songs with compelling lyrics and outstanding melodies. She’s set the bar quite high with this album, but I’m confident she has what it takes to come back with more great music in the future. For now, she’s been touring the UK to promote Breaking Out, and you can catch her next at Mr Wolfs in Bristol, England on January 18th.

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

ADAM COMPTON – Single Review: “Waste a Weekday”

Adam Compton

Adam Compton is a singer/songwriter based in Stevenage, UK, and he just dropped a lovely new single “Waste a Weekday.” The song is a follow up to his excellent debut EP Believe, released earlier this year. Adam also plays in the band Trouble With Tuesday, but wanted to record some of his songs as an acoustic solo act.

“Waste a Weekday” is an uplifting song about just forgetting the outside world and spending a quiet romantic day at home with a loved one. The track has a folk-rock feel, with acoustic guitar that goes from gentle strumming to exuberant and jangly. Smooth, sweeping violin and crisp percussion add subtle dramatic effect that never overpowers. Adam’s pleasing tenor vocals are earnest as he sings:

And we can pretend the world outside don’t exist, yeah
We’re talking over who is gonna have to get the biscuits
To dunk in our tea while we’re binge watching Netflix
We can go outside but why would I do that?
Rather stay in bed watching “Orange is the New Black”
And if I went to work, then I know I’d have to leave her
Being reclusive, ’cause you’re my favorite person to waste a weekday with

Connect with Adam:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream his music on Spotify & Soundcloud
Purchase on iTunes & Amazon

VERIS – Single Review: “Devil in the Details”

Devil in the Details

Boston duo VERIS are quickly establishing themselves as one the most exciting new acts of 2017. Comprised of singer/songwriter/ guitarist AJ Edwards and songwriter/drummer Mark Hylander, VERIS released their fantastic debut single “Opening Night” in June, which I reviewed. Now they’re back with a seductive new single “Devil in the Details.

 

Veris

The song is darker and more musically complex than the bouncy, upbeat “Opening Night.” This time around, VERIS incorporates trap and hip-hop beats, as well as eerily beautiful synthesized instrumentals and altered vocals to create a mysterious and sultry track. The song opens with a gentle synth, then a throbbing bass line enters as AJ fervently sings of being unable to resist the temptress who has him spellbound with desire:

Pull me closer, lock the door and turn the lights off
I don’t want to dive in deeper, but you know I can’t give it up
Test the water, feel my way across your current
Swimming never came this easy, and I know I can’t give it up
You’re the devil in the details

Sexual tension builds as layers of soaring instruments are added along with a recurring shrieking otherworldly vocal that disturbs the rapturous mood, perhaps startling the singer back to reality? AJ’s vocals are backed by a deeper vocal in the chorus, adding to the overall sense of mystery. It’s an amazing song.

 

Follow Veris on Facebook / Twitter / Instagram

Stream their music on Spotify and Soundcloud, and purchase on iTunes