Sunday Music Interlude — Adia Victoria, SHEL, and onDeadWaves

I haven’t written about music in a while, so it’s time to catch up on some of the more interesting new acts and new projects that I’ve come across.

Originally out of South Carolina, Adia Victoria now calls Nashville home.  Her interesting bio can be found at Allmusic.com here.  Her original music is a combination of country and electric blues, punk, garage rock, and a modern type of dark Americana roots music borne of the narrative tradition and neo-folk.  Her voice consists of a girlish rasp wrapped in an alto silkiness.  You can learn more about her at her website at www.adiavictoria.com.

She was named WXPN’s Artist to Watch for July 2016, and just performed on NPR’s Tiny Desk Concert.  The performance from this last appears below.

 

SHEL is a group of four sisters out of Fort Collins, Colorado.  I wrote about them back in September 2014 as they were just out of the egg, featuring their neo-folk music after an EP and first album.  They have since matured and have come out with a critically hailed album entitled Just Crazy Enough.  They just played live on Echoes.org with John Diliberto.   Here they are performing a couple of selections that reveal both their developing maturity and natural talent informed by that maturity.  The first is “Let Me Do.”  The song begins as a deceptively simplistic song that then changes both tempo and melody, carried by the ethereal combined voice of their harmony vocals in the call and response from narrative to chorus.

Speaking of ethereal, here is SHEL performing “I’m Just a Shadow.”  This is first class neo-noir folk and roots music.  The following Lyric Video highlights the emotional power of the lyrics.

It is probably time for a shout-out to John Diliberto at Echoes.org.  I actually came across John’s taste in music through the program Star’s End, which is still on-going.  There I was introduced to ambient and space music in the 1970s when I split time between visits to my home state of New Jersey and during trips from my job in Washington, D.C.  FM radio waves being as they were, especially in the early morning over weekends, I would occasionally be able to tune into the program, which memory serves was out of Philly, while driving down some deserted highway with the star-streaked night sky above, and wish that the feeling of my movement through time and space, the fresh air from the open windows, the firmament of the night sky, and the music–which seemed to transport me to some other dimension–would never end.  Then, after years traveling and at sea, I was reintroduced to John as music critic through his contributions to the long-missed CD Review magazine.  His thoughtful, eloquent, and informative reviews opened my world to new music and new musical genre’s that I would probably not otherwise have explored.  There are a few critics that fall into this category which, for me, includes Ralph Gleason, Leonard Feather, Ira Gitler, John McDonough, Robert Christgau, Gary Giddins, Orrin Keepnews, Greil Marcus, Dave Marsh, Michael Cuscuna, and David Dye, among a few–all good company.

This serves as introduction to another project to which I was introduced through Echoes.org and Mr. Diliberto.  It is the group onDeadWaves.  The group consists of British singers Polly Scattergood and James Chapman.  Their maiden album is this month’s Echoes CD of the Month.  According to the review by John Diliberto, onDeadWaves’s sound is like “a meeting of Lanterna, driving across the desert in a 57 ‘Chevy, with Leonard Cohen and Lucinda Williams in the backseat.”  Their music, also called “shoegaze west”, seems more varied, especially when confronted by the 60’s Byrd’s-like guitar and unrestrained punk of the song “California.”  Overall, though, I can hear the influence of the moodier neo-noir song-styling of Lana Del Rey through most of the songs.  Perhaps Ms. Del Rey was onto something after all.

Here they are the song “Blue Inside”.  Other videos are also available at the Echoes site linked above.

 

Saturday Music Interlude — La Luz performing “You Disappear”

La Luz (The Light) is an all female surf guitar quartet out of Seattle, Washington consisting of guitarist Shana Cleveland, drummer Marian Li Pino, keyboardist Alice Sandahl, and bassist Lena Simon.  The band was formed in 2012 with original bassist Abbey Blackwell who left the band in 2014 and was replaced by Simon.  Both of their albums It’s Alive (2013) and Weirdo Shrine (2015) have received critical reviews.  Most recently they made Spin’s list of “SXSW 2016: The Five Best Things We Saw on Day Three.”

The band’s sound is, in their description, “surf noir”, greatly influenced by earlier artists such as The Ventures and Dick Dale.  Here they are performing “You Disappear,” which starts out with dynamic “Secret Agent Man” surf guitar supported by a rhythm section of driving drums and supportive bass, all leaning forward over a solid foundation of soul-influenced organ.  Above it all we are greeted with sparkling female harmonies, with Shana Cleveland’s vocals out front, that convey pop-inflected songs with deceptively simple lyrics that convey a depth of emotion that is at the core of the song.  This is nothing less than great musicianship and songcraft.

Thanks to the indispensable KEXP for this and other essential live sessions.

Sunday Music Interlude — Dylan LeBlanc performing “Cautionary Tale”

What better way to get back to usual blogging than to share the latest discovery in new music.

According to Allmusic, Dylan LeBlanc hails from Louisiana and is the son of Muscle Shoals session singer/songwriter/guitarist James LeBlanc.  The elder LeBlanc’s music has been performed by artists as varied as Jo Dee Messina, Rascal Flatts, Billy Ray Cyrus, Travis Tritt, Trace Adkins, Chris LeDoux, Kenny Chesney, and a number of other artists.  What this means for LeBlanc fils is that he has been immersed in music from the start.  He began writing music at the age of 11 and has followed the alt-country, singer-songwriter, indie-rock, and Americana genres.  His style, to my ears, is a bit more bluesy and within the American folk music tradition, if a bit updated.  He is out of Shreveport, Louisiana, and has just released a new album entitled Cautionary Tale, which has gotten raves by DJs.  According to the reviewer at NPR’s First Listen, LeBlanc’s early success in landing a recording contract (he is but 25 years old) pushed him to substance and alcohol abuse, from which he emerged just prior to recording this album.  As a result, the lyrics and sound display a maturity beyond his years.  Here he is performing the apropos “Cautionary Tale,” the title track of the album.

 

Some Sunday Night Music — Lucie Silvas performing “Unbreakable Us” and “Letters to Ghosts”

Lucie Silvas, née Lucie Silverman, was born in London to the New Zealand father and Scottish mother.  According to her bio, she spent time in both places as a child, but was always dedicated to making music.  She was very active in the U.K. in the late 1990s and early 2000s, especially in the adult-contemporary genre’.  A few years ago she packed up and headed to Nashville and has just released a solo album of folk and blues-inflected pop entitled Letters to Ghosts which is due to be released next week.  Her voice is a cross between Bonnie Raitt and Janis Joplin, meaning that it is organic and genuine.  I’m not wild about the overproduction in the “Letters to Ghosts” single, but her powerful voice and her approach to the material successfully overcome any diversions in that regard.  She recently scored a mention in Spin Magazine’s Five Artists to Watch for October 2015.  These videos demonstrate why.  She is a talented singer with a wonderfully expressive voice.  Let’s hope she continues down this promising road.

Sunday Music — KT Tunstall performing “Tangled Up in Blue” and “Invisible Empire”

Talk is that she is in L.A. to pursue a movie career, movie soundtracks, and work on her next album.  For those of you unfamiliar, KT Tunstall hails from St. Andrews, Fife in Scotland.  She hit the music scene in 2004 and took it by storm.  Every album seems to get better than the last.

Here she is on an early performance from the U.K. on the iconic John Dylan cover which became for her a signature song for awhile–let’s hear it for the dustbin!

Before heading to L.A. for a change of career in 2014, she released the excellent Invisible Empire//Crescent Moon album.  Here she is with a live version of the title song from the first half of the album.

Her musical and emotional growth are apparent simply in the juxtaposition of the videos and we are the richer for it: documenting insights for all of us to ponder as we navigate existence.  Let’s hope we hear something again soon from KT.

Weekend Music Interlude — New Model Army performing “Sunrise”

New Model Army is a group that has been playing music since 1980.  They were part of the punk wave in music, though they are usually classified as post-punk, probably due to their musicality.  They came out of Bradford, West Yorkshire, U.K.  Like much of the punk music of the era their music focused on political issues of the time, but didn’t get much airplay in the United States.  The standard explanation is that this was because their topics usually focused on English politics, which was considered somewhat obscure to U.S. audiences.  Another factor was that the U.S. refused the band work permits for a while in the mid-1980s, largely because of those politics, which is focused on working class issues and anti-Thatcher themes, much along the lines of Billy Bragg.

The band has changed personnel over the years with the mainstay being lead vocalist Justin Sullivan, who formed the band with the collaboration of poet, novelist, illustrator, tattooist, and spoken word artist Joolz Denby.  A large part of NMA’s loyal following over the past 30+ years, which is substantial in the U.K., is due to the quality of their music and its intelligence which, while oftentimes spare, can also include acoustic, folk-rock, electric-violin, and other elements.  They tend to keep the music interesting and their lyrics intelligent.

Their new album is entitled “Between Wine & Blood.”  Here is the song “Sunrise” to give you a flavor of what you may have been missing all this time.  They are probably one of the best bands that you never heard.

Saturday Evening Music Interlude — Three from Mary Fahl

There is only one word to describe the music and voice of Mary Fahl: breathtaking.  Hailing from Rockland County, New York, she has been making music since the early 1990s, initially with the respected group October Project, which had a loyal and growing following until Epic records unceremoniously dropped them.  Her music has been featured in film and television, which spans genres from pop/rock, to classical, to alternative rock, and to folk.  Her powerful contralto voice has been compared favorably to Grace Slick.  Among current artists I would compare both her music, breadth, and themes with Florence Welch of Florence and the Machine.