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Nicola Thoms release Beautiful Mind Single

Nicola Thoms release Beautiful Mind Single

URL: www.nicolathoms.com

“Beautiful Mind” is the latest single from Nicola Thoms, and it’s a breath of fresh air by a new Pop artist for Soul and RnB music lovers too. There is a back story to her and the song she wrote about her Grandfather that are worth sharing. Nicola grew up being surrounded by soul and R&B music, and throughout her youth, long car journeys with her parents were always accompanied by the likes of Whitney Houston, Stevie Wonder, Candi Staton, Teddy Pendergrass, Michael Jackson and Lauryn Hill, and these artists very much lay the foundation for her love for music.

She also draws inspiration from more current artists including Amy Winehouse, Jhene Aiko and Lianne La Havas, but just the thought of Teddy Pendergrass being an influence on her is a point of interest because to put it mildly there was never a better Soul singer. You can hear some of these others mentioned, written all over her voice though. She compliments, rather than copies anyone, and that’s a hallmark of any great original artist. Her voice does all the rest needed to win you over with a song that hits home, where the heart always is and always will be.

INSTAGRAM: www.instagram.com/nicola_thoms/

On this single, her voice is simply enhanced by electronics to bring out the occasional flashes of energy throughout the song. There’s no music of any dominating force, it’s all a showcase of top notch vocals and her capabilities are as strong as they come. And the song itself being about her Grandfather is where the whole thing comes together, and you feel what she’s singing through the lyrics, let alone her astonishing voice. Frankly, Nicola leaves other singers of her generation in the dust. She’s the type of singer that sticks to your mind, body, heart and soul. There’s no arguing that.

SPOTIFY: open.spotify.com/track/4gbpso3Gn4ncT7zwKKyRXX?si=l7jty0K0QZO5RBH0zu9GDg

Nicola’s Granfather being the subject matter of the song, it’s about being scared-of memories drifting too far, and some of the great things about her Grandfather. It’s almost like a dream with her singing to him, and/or about him. This is a very mystifying song because of her relationship with her Grandfather, and it just makes the song everything it can be. Laughter and pain are one in the same and you get the feeling you’re living the song. It’s a live animal that way, and an untamed one too. The lion becomes unleashed the second the song begins.

SOUNDCLOUD: soundcloud.com/nicola_thoms/beautiful-mind

What a music education means is more than meets the eye, and that’s why Nicola sounds so mature for her age. She’s really been developing for some time now, so this single isn’t some kind of fluke, it’s guaranteed to come with follow-ups, as it followed up another track called “Nothing On Me” which is another story, altogether. But check out “Beautiful Mind” for all it’s worth, and you’ll be wanting to hear anything you can by this young and quickly growing singer from the East of London, while the rest of the world awaits without knowing what to expect from her. She brings fireworks to the ears.

Clay Burton

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Sirens – I Believe

Sirens – I Believe

URL: www.SirensMG.com

(Washington DC) Sirens is a band made up of Stevie Lee Kinzer, Josh Barnhart and Jacob Barnhart. The guys met at a show in Wyandotte, Michigan at the ZUBA music festival while playing in different bands. The band was spontaneously formed that day but technically Sirens (USA) was born after Steve Lee Kinzer decided to move from Michigan to the Washington DC in 2017.

Their latest single I Believe single lifts off the ground quite nicely with methodically layered rhythm section, hooky musical flow against a grand slam chorus. The build up to the chorus si impressive and serves up a mesmerizing melody meshed against heartfelt vocals and well placed harmonies from Jake Barnhart and the gang. I would describe this piece a captivating, mesmerizing and invigorating. As the track hits solid stride it dishes out s consistent rock-driven groove meshed with heartfelt vocal flow that flows and ebbs its way through to emotional fruition.

I can hear many different musical textures reminiscent of Muse, Coldplay, Modest Mouse, and even classic XTC. The single is extremely melodic but definitely brings to the table a lot of musical variety and much in the way of hooky melodies via a short and sweet format. You will notice rich musical textures overflowing everywhere – from thick as a brick moog bass, driving multi layered rhythms, sonic synthesizers and keyboard accents, vocal harmonies all built upon a rock solid rhythm section. I like the quirky solo and the Beach Boys-esqe type harmony ending the song – nice touch.

All band members play their parts extremely well song for song and note for note. Let me go on record to say there’s not a dull moment on the entire production. The music is passionate and just exciting and suspenseful to listen to.

It’s hard to find any noticeable weaknesses with this single no doubt. If I was producer I think would shy away from the fade out ending and just cut it off somewhere within the harmonious segment. I wish there was a bit more peak and valley effect within the song. Overall the vocal deliver comes on way too strong across the board. Maybe more live instrumentation like Sonic Trumpet, Horns and percussion. All of the above would give it more of a pop appeal without losing the hard rock edge.

From start to finish I Believe by Sirens is a rock solid musical production from start to finish. It’s an extremely consistent, catchy, and a highly melodic ride, with a powerful message to boot. Its strength – it’s just a good and consistent listen and it’s strong suit is it’s positive message. The music will grab the listeners senses refusing to let go. All in all these lads combine amazing musical talent with effective songwriting and vocal abilities delivered hot to the touch via an entertaining collaboration that will have you dancing into the unknown.

I-TUNES: itunes.apple.com/us/album/white-album-single/1351058031

Clay Burton

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Brian Hutson – Anything Can Happen

Brian Hutson – Anything Can Happen

INSTAGRAM: www.instagram.com/brihutson/

The near-certain success of Brian Hutson’s latest single release “Anything Can Happen” will likely move this young New York based singer into the upper echelon of singing talents in popular music today. His 2015 discovery by producer Joe Vulpis has lead to a number of important and entertaining releases like his idiosyncratic cover of the Christmas classic “Blue Christmas” and the EP release Midnight Sessions and his new song builds on their quality while expanding his reach further than before. Hutson’s voyage from his Hudson Valley upbringing, working on Wall Street, and finally making major forays into the popular music world is an unique tale even for these modern times and you hear that excellence reflected in every minute of “Anything Can Happen”. It’s a winning effort from a young performer who has a limitless future and a bright 2018 ahead of him.

You can hear the promise in his voice. The entirety of “Anything Can Happen” is practically a vocal clinic with Hutson dispatching one inspired turn after another and showing unflappable instincts for knowing what the song needs. A lesser performer might have been overwhelmed by the idea of living up to Hutson’s success thus far, but he sounds galvanized by the opportunity. Despite the obvious fact that this isn’t a live performance, it’s difficult to not hear how Hutson’s vocal is completely informed by the musical arrangement and spills out of him in a stylish release that explores different channels in the listener’s emotional register. He consistently shows the same mastery of song that you hear from much older artists, particularly the iconic ones, and Hutson’s supreme confidence is one of the track’s most vivid features. He especially excels during the song’s chorus and it’s one of the track’s best moments overall.

There aren’t a plethora of instruments involved in this song, but the sounds present are woven together in a substantive thread that evolves nicely from the first and has a sense of knowing where it’s going from the first. Acoustic guitar lines nearly act as a second vocalist matching Hutson’s voice at various points in the song, but assume a capable supporting role at other points as well. The bass and drumming on “Anything Can Happen” give it some additional force, otherwise it might float rather dreamily – that foundation is important to the song’s overall success. The beauty of a song like this, ultimately, lies with how natural it sounds and it moves from a rather simple beginning into something much vaster and grander sounding. Brian Hutson’s career trajectory, thus far, has been one of the most memorable in recent memory and the new single “Anything Can Happen” brings home the reality, once again, that this is one of the best young performers coming into the scene for some time. It’s a great beginning to 2018 for Brian Hutson and will only get better from here.

SOUNDCLOUD: soundcloud.com/brihutson/anything-can-happen/s-OjauX

Photo Credit Angela Talley

Clay Burton

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Cale – Good Day

Cale – Good Day 

INSTAGRAM: www.instagram.com/dearkingcale/?hl=en

Chinese performer and songwriter Cale’s latest single “Good Day” follows up his late 2017 EP release Villain with a track brimming over with the same charisma and swagger that’s been his hallmark since first coming to the music world’s attention in 2010 as a young teenager. He’s soon to turn twenty five years old and the astonishing growth he’s experienced as both a performing artist and writer suggests Cale will be with us with some time to come. His instincts for the form are embodied by the song’s four minute running time – it’s a perfectly crafted track in the hip hop style and doesn’t sound uncertain at all while avoiding any hint of the self indulgence we’d undoubtedly hear from lesser performers. He has an veteran’s assurance and the urgency of a young performer taking great strides towards his artistic destiny. “Good Day” is Cale’s finest single yet and shows that his thirst for new challenges is growing with each new accomplishment.  

There’s an understated ambition surrounding this song. It doesn’t announce itself with trumpets, literal or otherwise, but instead comes through it how it unexpectedly melds traditional musical elements like unexpected R&B influences with his obvious devotion to hip hop style. He cites American hip hop artists as influences alongside his Chinese influences and you can hear that in his music, but it has the good fortune to come across in an individual way rather than as some sort of slavish imitation. “Good Day” varies from a full on approach, emphasizing its groove at the strongest points, over to relaxing and paring away elements during certain sections. The chorus stands out thanks to a smattering of post-production effects added to his voice that fattens its sound. “Good Day” comes off as an unified effort from the first and there’s little doubt that Cale came into the studio for its session focused on a specific sound and end result for this track.

The vocal is its crowning achievement. He has a reassuring, lightly commanding presence from the first and keeps it balanced throughout without ever lapsing into any histrionic moments. There’s a definite pulse to Cale’s hip hop style that you can hook into from the first and it only grows even stronger as the song continues and musical feel for what the song needs to be most successful is unerring from the first. “Good Day” has a powerful and immediate sound that never becomes heavy handed while Cale serves up lyrical content that stays far away from the genre’s typically formulaic moments. There’s an immense amount of charisma and personality coming off this song and the confidence is palpable. Cale’s “Good Day” is as fantastic of a hip hop single as you’ll likely encounter in 2018 and has the potential for appealing to both casual and hardcore music fans alike. It’s a real corker from the first and has plenty of pop and musicality.  

Clay Burton

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Rob Alexander – Back to the Radio

Rob Alexander – Back to the Radio 

South Florida based singer/songwriter Rob Alexander proves he’s gifted on a level shared by few with the release of “Back to the Radio”, a single from his collection Long Road Coming Home. The track and album are produced by renowned board magician Gabe Lopez; in tandem, these two musical imaginations shape “Back to the Radio” in a compelling way that listeners will latch onto while showing off idiosyncratic shades that mark the tune as his own rather than something imitative. Alexander’s medical career as a successful anesthesiologist working out of the South Florida area and his role as an educator for future medical professionals shows there are depths to this singer and performer shared by few in the music world today. Based on this song alone, Long Road Coming Home promises to be one of 2018’s more affecting musical experiences.  

“Back to the Radio” has the cool, simmering stride of the mature and fully realized AOR rock song. Rob Alexander’s confidence is superficially surprising considering his long standing focus on a medical career over the musical and some of that may be explained by Gabe Lopez’s steadying presence on the recording of the single and album. It’s likely more explained by the presence of Alexander’s innate talents rather than attributable to any outside force. His songwriting is impressive in every way. The construction of “Back to the Radio” is arch-traditional, yet the spirit of the song is infused with the unique presence of a charisma all Alexander’s own rather than relying on imitation to win over listeners. It makes this song a classic example of pouring old wine into new bottles if nothing else. Alexander doesn’t sound like a newcomer; instead, he sounds like an experienced professional and an artist putting his hand to his finest work thus far.  

The classic rock leanings of the song, bringing guitar, bass, and drums together, are arranged in a pop inspired fashion focusing more on melody than pure rock muscle. It has a dramatic edge, however, that Alexander’s profoundly emotive voice capitalizes on and backs off at all the right places to make for a more nuanced performance. “Back to the Radio” recalls songs from an earlier era, particularly the late eighties and nineties, but it doesn’t sound like some inert tribute to a bygone era, but rather like Alexander has adopted a vehicle whose possibilities aren’t yet exhausted to best embody the sound he hears in his head. Rob Alexander’s “Back to the Radio” is the first song from Long Road Coming Home and represents him coming out of his corner with the impassioned energy of an artist unleashed at last. It’s a condensed, orchestrated performance that hits all the right notes and promises much about the quality to come hearing Long Road Coming Home in full. It shows off an artist who deserves to be heard far and wide.  

YOU TUBE: www.youtube.com/channel/UCjsR5vSRwZU3THa6YH2nXbQ

Clay Burton

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CAP – Official

Cap – Official 

TWITTER: twitter.com/@capishmusic

Cap’s “Official” is the new single from a Southern California music giant in the making whose four solo albums thus far has helped establish him as one of the most thrilling hip hop talents on the scene today. Michael Capshaw’s rising profile in the music world comes around as honest as it gets – he’s built his reputation through the aforementioned solo albums, video appearances, live performance, guest spots on releases like the Bones Thugs & Harmony tour album, and producing numerous artists as well as his own music. His tenure serving overseas in the military is likely an influence on his command over what his art and career needs, particularly in the area of work ethic and discipline, and the quality of this song bodes well for his soon to be released fifth project Scorpio. “Official” is one more reminder that Michael Capshaw, otherwise known as Cap, is ready for prime time.  

A little over three minutes in length, “Official” has an evocative musical imagination while never coming off as overstated. – the melodies Cap follows are his own and the unique presence of that quality in his music marks his material as distinctly different from the genre’s more common fare. The best way to describe this song is a synthesis of styles – there’s hip hop present, soul, R&B, and even a light singer/songwriter sensibility in the lyrics’ deliberate attempt to make the personal universal. The arrangement underscores the presence of guitar in the mix and it’s a relatively unexpected addition makes the tune stand out more than it already does. 

The production and playing working in concert gives the instrument an unusually stylized sound that adroitly invokes a mood. Cap’s singing balances a thoroughly traditional approach to both integrating his voice with the arrangement and phrasing while also bringing a modern approach to his singing that crowns the song for listeners.  

The remaining instrumentation is equally well handled. The production complements the arrangement nicely without ever drawing too much attention to itself and balances the instruments well against one another while still highlighting the vocal. The completeness of this song is quite satisfying; from the first, Cap’s “Official” comes off like a song that knows where its going and has a compelling rhythmic arrangement working alongside some powerful melodic strands. It’s the next big step in a career in constant ascent and points the way towards even bigger accomplishments to come. Its warm, radio friendly veneer comes across from the first and sustain itself for the entirety of the performance. We need entertainers and musical artists like this in an increasingly cookie cutter age where the lowest common denominator wins out over quality far too much of the time.  

The beauty of “Official” is Cap’s own, imitative of no one, and exudes an emotional mood quite unlike anything else you’ll hear in this style. Both casual and hardcore fans alike will enjoy his work.  

YOU TUBE: www.youtube.com/user/capishmusic?feature=mhee

Clay Burton

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Joshua McClain – Coming Home

Joshua McClain – Coming Home

YOU TUBE: www.youtube.com/watch?v=T4vN-nEvA28

Joshua McClain’s first self-titled EP was released in June 2011. He also collaboratively released a full-length album in March of 2016 with The Handsome Brunettes, titled Is Fortune a Wheel, with critical acclaim. Highly sought after for both his composition and improvisation as a studio musician, Joshua stays busy working with many Bay Area artists, including folk/americana sensation Spark and Whisper and on Sara Lovell’s latest album You’ve Got Me, winner of the 2016 parent’s choice award. Coming Home, his latest is a concept album based on Joseph Campbell’s hero’s journey, and Joshua’s cello leads as the main instrument.

Joshua’s style is deeply influenced by the music of Andrew Bird, Zoe Keating, Mark Summer, Yo-Yo Ma, Sigur Rós, Dirty Three, Jimi Hendrix, Max Richter, Yann Tiersen, and Hans Zimmer, among others. These are all details you can find along with so much more at his website. The album is a lot to take in, especially in one sitting, as it plays like one track but there are eight altogether. It starts out with “Journey” which hints at what’s to come and serves as a fine introduction to the concept. The music is somewhere between classical and Americana if it fits any categories. Some might even say it verges on prog rock.

There’s a heavy-handed inclination about it, combined with some influences that certainly don’t count out the prog tag, but as McClain indicates, you can call it what you want, whatever feels right. It’s about how you see it, as well as how he intended it about himself, also pertaining to the Campbell storyline. The second track, “A New World” plays its part more-or less in the triple entendre of author, musician and audience the album covers with no secret about it. This lush piece is where it begins to take off and captivate you with its marvelous musicianship and lavish production.

The following response is musically one of the more outstanding songs of them all, with “Spirit Guide” lifting things up as high as you can imagine thus far on such a cool album. It might even be the sleeper track of the album, depending on whether-or not you like the howling female vocals which for my taste really help make this song what it is. The build-up as it closes, leaves you wanting more, and more I did get as I listened to it a few times on the first outing. If I had a favorite track this would be the highest contender for it, but to be fair and honest, to my ears there is no filler on this brilliant release.

“A Storm On The Horizon” is one of the lesser dynamic but more laid back and groovier tracks to its credit. If “slinky” is a good word for it, then it will do. It’s a mood piece that works within the concept, and if you look at it all as one big piece of music, you’ll comprehend it a lot better. Either way you slice it here there’s something for any lover of everything from classical to folk and even some rock. From the opener, to “Underworld,” and “Rebirth,” to the roaring wonders of the fantastic “Hear My Voice” which is a must hear. It might even be worth the price of admission, it’s beyond innovative, and of genius quality.

CD BABY: store.cdbaby.com/cd/joshuamcclain1

Clay Burton

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Ashley J – Satisfied

Ashley J – Satisfied 

URL: ashleyj.net/ 

Powered by some of the biggest writing and production talents working in pop music today, Ashley J’s debut EP Satisfied realizes the potential exhibited by her first two singles “Trapped” and “Unbreakable” while expanding her artistic reach with an added three songs. The five song release is the full emergence of a pop/EDM influenced songwriting and vocal talent quite singular among her generation in the way she so seamlessly brings the present and past together in one appealing package. The Orlando native, now based in the Los Angeles area, is definitely easy on the eyes, but she generates genuine musical heat in these songs, takes on considerable songwriting responsibilities, and her personality burns through the songs with a memorable charisma we don’t often hear from cookie cutter modern pop. The individuality and passion in Ashley J’s music is her own and utterly unmistakable.  

The authoritative opening for the EP’s first song “Trapped” comes about thanks to an union of attention grabbing percussion with the confident sound of Ashley J’s voice entering the mix early in the song. It continues to maintain the same dramatic edge when the song begins, only on a larger stage than before, and Ashley proves more than capable of ratcheting up the intensity of her own singing in response to changes in the performance. The song is a little longer than the average single in this vein, clocking in at four minutes, but never lapses into self indulgence and keeps listeners occupied for the duration. The shorter “Unbreakable” has a softer edge than the opener and her voice juxtaposes quite well against the song’s insistent EDM pulse. The song accumulates effects as it progresses and ends up with a rousing payoff for listeners.  

The EP’s title track comes off like a big screen tune from its first notes onward. This is a song that’s built from the ground up with tremendous passion and a clear idea of where they want to go with the writing. It also continues to show off the different sides of Ashley J’s musical character that mark her as more than a common pop/EDM songstress. “Like You Used To” has an insistent grind that Ashley J brings a lot of extra heat to, but the arrangement doesn’t content itself with following one line of attack and the musical shifts are welcome and propel the song further along. Her playful, sure-footed vocals are another highlight of the performance. The EP’s final song “When I Come Home To You” mixes much of what we’ve heard from the previous four tracks in with a strong acoustic guitar track running underneath its colorful bells and whistles. It’s an excellent conclusion for the EP reminding listeners that Ashley J’s journey will continue to be filled with tasty surprises from this point forward. Satisfied isn’t particularly long, but it will end the young year rated high on anyone’s list of top pop recordings released in 2018.  

SOUNDCLOUD: soundcloud.com/ashleyj_music

Clay Burton

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Jiggley Jones – Truthseeker

Jiggley Jones – Truthseeker 

YOU TUBE: www.youtube.com/watch?v=2lqKHN5_wNE

Written and produced by Jiggley Jones, “Truthseeker” should probably be considered part and parcel of his recent album Not Your Typical Day Out, but its separate single release qualifies as a notable entry in his growing discography. Jones is hailed in many quarters as one of the most talented singer/songwriters emerging from the folk/Americana scene today, but his songwriting also demonstrates a palpable commercial edge that, nevertheless, never panders to listeners. He’s built well on his 2012 debut with recordings and well received live gigs in front of a variety of audiences. He’s won them over with a combination of vulnerability, musical skill, and considered songwriting with a poetic flair. “Truthseeker” is one of Jiggley Jones’ best songs yet and it’s easy to hear why Jones believed it could and should stand on its own. It runs a little over four minutes and makes a strong impression on listeners without ever risking self indulgence. Taken together with its accompanying video, it’s one of the more intelligent singles to come out this year and demands to be approached as a serious work in every respect.  

The video opens on a note of near desperation. An unseen woman is scampering about, seemingly frantic and unsure of direction. The feeling of disorientation continues when the song actually begins and we are treated to a shot of a slowly spinning blue sky shot from directly below. The camera soon settles on a girl sitting alone against a tree in the woods. The pastoral qualities of Jones’ song are extraordinarily sympathetic with the visual imagery without ever delving into the songwriting and the elegiac streak of violin coloring the song is reflected in the video’s frequent use of atmospheric film techniques. We only get our first glimpse of the performer behind the song past the two minute mark and it’s emblematic of his approach on the whole. Jiggley Jones’ music and presentation speak for themselves, at risk of cliché, and there’s no call for the hot dogging histrionics lesser performers might rely on thanks to insecurity about their talents and a natural crudity of intent. 

The sound of the single is immaculately handled. The acoustic guitar, in particular, has a near shimmering quality that gives the song a warm inner musical light that sustains itself throughout the song’s entirety. Jones introduces a nice percussion track a little ways into the song that keeps a percolating undercurrent powering the track throughout its entirety, There doesn’t seem to be a lot going on with this song – in the sense that there’s only a few instruments influencing its outcome for ill or good. The brevity of the arrangement is one of its strengths, however, and makes for a perfect choice to pair with a video. “Truthseeker” is one of Jones’ most important works so far and deserves a wide hearing.  

CD BABY: store.cdbaby.com/cd/jiggleyjones2

Clay Burton

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Billy Walton Band – Soul of a Man

Billy Walton Band – Soul of a Man

ALL MUSIC: www.allmusic.com/album/soul-of-a-man-mw0003127293

Billy Walton Band are lighting fires with their new album Soul Of A Man, On Vizztone Records, the label that signed them in 2015, after many tours on the road. “Hell Or Highwater” is the first single from the album, and the video is a must see in order to get the whole scope of what they do, which does come with much to tell about them.  It all starts on the Jersey shore and wraps around the world, with the veteran Walton having played in Southside Johnny & The Asbury Jukes beginning in 2010 and the rest is history. His solo band is an excellent selection of musicians.

Billy’s proving ground was Long Beach Island. There he was chaperoned from gig to gig by his Mom, two young to drive around and enter the clubs on his own. He always was up for a jam and looking to learn some tricks. For years Billy spent his time sharpening his skills, developing his stage act until he decided to step up to center stage with the Billy Walton Band. The rest of his background can be found at the band website, but it’s important to know where they come from and how they’ve arrived since their debut with Vizztone in 2015. It’s a long road to glory and one look and listen to the video show they’re up to it.

They deserve a spotlight on themselves and video singles are on the rise, so they pulled out all stops to produce a quality live performance for the masses to view, which speaks volumes for itself as an exposure piece. This plays well on all devices, which keeps it to the music, but videos help to get a good look into how well a band appeals to their audience. It covers all the bases and there’s nothing left to be said about the potential it brings to move a release along. And this one comes highly recommended for its flawless editing and production that show them is the best possible light.

Just to give some insight, the Billy Walton Band have toured 13 times since 2007, taking them across Europe and establishing them as a force to reckon with in the British Blues scene. This is often done when the connection point to directions where the music is most demanded, and it hasn’t been in America as much since back before 2007. There seems to be a shortage of this music since then, even in the place it was born. Billy Walton and company make you forget about that for the time being, as they assault your ears with the best of what there is to offer in a sea of new music out there.

Staying true to your school is what it’s all about and sticking at it until it proves to be your calling, and this band seems to be doing exactly that in the one-off trending times for rock ‘n roll and music in general. They put the class back into the picture and let the music do the talking like it used to and still should. The video plays over and over without boring the viewer, so it has miles of freshness to it and shows this band play with the best of ‘em in the world. There’s a downhome blues quality to what they do, with a high energy spirit behind it. And this video helps to feature them and make that go without even saying.

I-TUNES: itunes.apple.com/us/album/soul-of-a-man/1309393692

Clay Burton

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Ashley Delima – Stay in America

Ashley Delima – Stay in America

SPOTIFY: open.spotify.com/track/3UcrYsR9OFPvF8OnlVTPqs

New Jersey born vocal talent Ashley Delima is one of the most impressive singers, male or female, emerging in recent memory and her talents don’t stop with the musical. She shares the songwriting credits for her first single “Stay in America” with producer/songwriter Marc Swersky and successful writer Brielle Brown and proves she deserves to share the company of such luminaries thanks to the well worded lyrical content she provides. She depicts the struggle of “Dreamer” immigrants living with an uncertain future in the United States and the stakes in such a struggle with a near poetic focus complete, nonetheless, with words that serve the song without ever becoming too elaborate for their own good. The mix of entertainment and intelligence making this track sound so remarkable is doubly so when you consider Delima’s youth. She doesn’t betray a single flutter of uncertainty and packs a tremendous amount of passion and craft into each moment of the song.

“Stay in America” is a complete experience. Many songs in a pop vein feature lyrical content that’s merely a placeholder or perfunctory while all the focus is applied to the music and, particularly, the beat. There’s certainly some emphasis here on percussion and the inventive results from that is one of the strongest characteristics of the song, but it’s there to lay down the building blocks of the song rather than being the most important piece of the puzzle. There’s some equally important contributions from guitarist Vin Landolfi and his melodic six string playing runs through the arrangement like a live current of carefully controlled electricity. To top Mixer Mark Needham to the way Ashley’s vocal melody matches up with the arrangement is notable. Her vocal presence seems to snake through the song, moving up and down with the movements of the music, and it comes off like a completely live experience to the point that it might be her first overall attempt at the song.

The way she tackles the lyrics is equally inspired. If this is, indeed, her first run through, Delima makes her mark by unreeling some challenging and far from colloquial phrases with the sort of naturalness we’d expect from conversation. It lines up rather nicely with the musical backing and packs a dramatic punch that isn’t always present in modern pop music. What musicians the caliber of Landolfi, drummer Adam Jackson, percussionist Daniel Sadownick, and pianist Alan Markley bring to Ashley Delima’s music serves this young talent well and never takes short cuts. The totality of the performance and its sure handed invocation of Brazilian influences makes it one of the more impressive singles I’ve heard in recent memory. “Stay in America” is an involving musical experience that shows Marc Swersky’s unerring ear for talent has found another spectacular talent to champion. It’s honest, real, and high quality in every musical sense. Her earnestness shines through, but her passion for the song’s subject burns even brighter.

YOU TUBE: www.youtube.com/watch?v=LxvKc91RoD4

Photo credit is Jesse Lizotte

Dale Butcher

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Robin Kelly – Orewa Heartbeat

Robin Kelly – Orewa Heartbeat

URL: www.robinkelly.co.nz/Musician.html 

Orewa Heartbeat is the fifth studio release from New Zealander Robin Kelly, a doctor working in the field of holistic/alternative medicine who also commands immense respect as an author and public speaker. He hasn’t written the album’s thirteen songs, however, to promote any sort of agenda beyond sharing his heart with the world at large. The songs on Orewa Heartbeat do so with immense stylishness and a confidence born from the knowledge of what he wants to say and how to say it. There’s a few love songs scattered throughout the album’s running order and this oldest of subjects floods the release with warm sunlight balancing out nicely against the rare shadowy moments cropping up in the songwriting. His adaptation of Americana themed styles might seem unlikely from a New Zealand born singer and songwriter, but that’s a limited musical imagination, because Kelly tackles this type of music with every bit of the same authenticity and verve as any American.  

It’s deeply satisfying to hear someone working in this tradition, no matter their country of origin, who undercuts the stereotype that musical material like this should strike a dramatic, unhappy note or that all singer/songwriters should be tortured artists. There’s a lot of warmth on Orewa Heartbeat and it comes across from the outset. “Waiting for Me Too” has a streak of melancholy providing an undercurrent for the song, but there’s more a sense of breaking through that streak and finding a new day that comes from the often lush, classically influenced arrangement. “Truthseeker (Song for Pete)” is one of Orewa Heartbeat’s highlights thanks to a tasteful balance achieved between strands of classical influence positioned against Kelly’s acoustic guitar playing. The strings present giving the song its classical leanings adds a lot of color, but this song would have succeeded even without that addition. There’s a palpable Cat Stevens influence in this number that longtime fans of the style will likely admire. 

The unvarnished vulnerability Kelly shows listeners on one of the album’s few outright ballads, “I Apologize”, makes for one of Orewa Heartbeat’s more memorable moments and accomplishes it with a well-honed artistry we just don’t hear often anymore. Kelly is clearly intent on crafting music capable of timelessness. The same languid Americana elegance we hear in other Orewa Heartbeat songs comes across, perhaps in its most refined and considered form, on the song “Would It Be Enough for You?” and much of its mood is attributable to the generous spirit inhabiting the song’s lyrical content. Kelly really embodies that spirit with one of the release’s best singing performances It’s much closer to a straight forward folk song in the singer/songwriter vein and it’s difficult, if not impossible, for listeners to be unimpressed by his achingly rendered lyrics. The same folky vibe pervades a lightly rueful love song entitled “My Secret” but, when Kelly conjures those inklings of ruefulness, it’s more about the chagrin of wasted time more than any other sort of despair. Much like the opener, “Where Are You Now?” is a quasi-classical chamber piece with an accompanying Kelly vocal. It’s another compelling lyric as well, never overwritten, that questions where God’s presence is in a world often bubbling with chaos and loss. The immense heart underlying these songs makes Orewa Heartbeat one of the most intensely human musical experiences in recent memory.  

ANGHAMI: play.anghami.com/artist/2086491 

Michael Saulman

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Dan Rodriguez – 25 Years

Dan Rodriguez – 25 Years

SPOTIFY: open.spotify.com/artist/5T7PSvUO7Sm6AskUrp9iER?si=-mnprNmVR1Om1RAT8N_FQg

Dan Rodriguez’s 25 Years is a six song outing for one of the more impressive singer/songwriters working today on the indie scene. Despite his indie status, Rodriguez has experienced a number of notable successes, namely plum live appearances and placing songs in high profile advertising, and it’s a testament to how his marvelous recordings have found ready acceptance from more than just hardcore music fans. Dan Rodriguez’s fifth release shows him writing, singing, and playing with supreme confidence in his ability to seize and hold an audience’s attention. Rodriguez, in his relatively brief career, has amassed artistic powers we typically ascribe to much more veteran performers and 25 Years provides an aural embodiment of where he is right now that many listeners will find entertaining and gripping. It’s an EP that anyone who loves great songwriting and authentic rock and roll will enjoy.

One of the true musical strengths of 25 Years lies with its acoustic guitar playing. We get our first taste of that with the opening title track “25 Years” and a song slot frequently considered one of the big ticket items on any releases is well served by a track that brings a number of disparate strands together in a tight and expertly crafted weave of aural color. His voice is the brightest thread in that weave and glows with a lustrous blue light as it dips, dives, and swings with the first class arrangement. “You Feel Like Home” follows the same sort of construction but achieves different effects – the fact that there are such subtle variations in Rodriquez’s musical toolbox speaks well about his talents now and their potential for growth. He shows a different musical face with the track “Fire” and this comfortable blast of pure rock and roll makes for a nice change in atmosphere after the comparatively low-key slant we hear on the first two songs. The lead guitar lines coming through on this performance add another layer of goodness to the song.

“You’re Not Anybody” shows us yet another side to his talents while packing some of the same rock spirit we hear in the previous song. His singing shows great intelligence and sensitivity here, as well, and has a percussive quality that links up well with the drumming. “Hero” will definitely have its fans as Rodriguez takes his stab at something close to an AOR rock anthem, but it has a finessed touch that never weighs too heavily on the song and makes it more emotionally affecting and the final song on 25 Years, “Until the End”, gives Rodriguez’s listeners a muted and bare bones finale affording us our likely most personal look yet into this singer/songwriter’s heart. It’s a fitting close to an EP that takes a hands-on approach with every track and 25 Years sets Dan Rodriguez up nicely for moving to even greater heights in the months and years to come.

Lucas Botz Photography

YOU TUBE: www.youtube.com/watch?v=oYSRbDKZHsw

Larry Robertson

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RĀI – Back to Life

RĀI – Back to Life

URL: www.therealrai.com

South Carolina’s RĀI (pronounced “Ray”) is quickly shaping up to be an once in a generation vocal and songwriting talent who brings a signature skill set and style to everything he touches. His single “Back to Life” showcases his wizardry at reinterpreting R&B and soul for a 21st century generation not as knowledgeable about the genre’s iconic history and ripe for someone like this to come along and turn their heads. One of the unique qualities setting RĀI apart from a vast assortment of his peers and contemporaries is his commitment that his musical art reflects his personality and beliefs rather than succumbing to market pressures. This results in a very personal voice emerging from the polished sound and composition of “Back to Life” quite distinct from typical fodder in both modern soul and R&B. This is a truly standout moment in the 2018 musical year from a performer who promises to improve with each new future release.

SOUNDCLOUD: soundcloud.com/therealraimusic/05-back-to-life/s-hIlhS

It’s as well rounded as any song, any genre, ever comes. He takes plenty of time to unwind its virtues for attentive listeners and the audience’s focus is rewarded with an arrangement that, despite its electronic sound, proves to be inviting and even unpredictable at some points. Note the slight shifts in tempo, beat, and melody when the song hits its refrains and how he studiously avoids singing anything the same way twice. His phrasing tells a story every bit as much as the lyrics do and it’s told with the kind of restraint we often hear from longtime performers, but rarely, if ever, from newcomers. Thanks to the care he exercises, we get under the song’s skin from his vocal entrance and his ability to manipulate our emotions takes us on an impressive ride throughout the length of the song.

INSTAGRAM: www.instagram.com/raimusicworld/

The rich, inspired nature of the arrangement makes the singing come even more alive and they seem to feed off each other. It’s no small feat to pull off considering that it doesn’t appear that RĀI is working with a live band at any point during this recording, but the backing track is arranged in such a way that it makes excellent use of melody and mood to enhance the song. It proves to be an especially effective vehicle for his lyrical message, particularly because it never distracts from it, and the groove gives RĀI a tangible musical component to tether his voice to that makes this a wonderfully enriching experience. That groove is its deepest nod to his soul and R&B influences and never feels like it takes a single short cut during the song’s three minute forty five second running time. “Back to Life” is a powerful opening single for Love’s on the Way, RĀI’s first studio collection, and anyone who comes into contact with this potent release will undoubtedly find him to be every bit as remarkable as I do.

YOU TUBE: www.youtube.com/watch?v=oeCOFuD2ASU

Frank McClure

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Lexie Rose – On My Own

Lexie Rose – On My Own

SPOTIFY: open.spotify.com/artist/3zCZcf2i2vEHHjRYIPZA90?si=GX8bqH5UQnekiDKXeioqiA

On My Own is a fantastic EP release from Los Angeles based singer/songwriter Lexie Rose and effectively serves as a clear statement of identity from this talented young artist. The Max Allyn produced five tracks included on the EP are thoroughly modern recordings, but they demonstrate a command of musical fundamentals that’s the bedrock behind any successful musical piece or collection. Rose is obviously blessed with innate skills that she’s managed to present in an extraordinarily vital way thanks to a clear vision of what she wants to accomplish with her songs and a first class supporting cast. Lexie Rose has gained a reputation thanks to both her recordings and live performances alike and there’s zero indication that any of these new songs will prove to be unsuccessful additions to her live act. On My Own is a completely satisfying effort from this important new performer.

URL: www.lexierosemusic.com

“20 Weeks” illustrates her songwriting talents from the outset in a way few openers could. She brings specificity and generalities together in a way that brings the audience into her reality while allowing them to take away what they like from the song. It’s a mark of how developed she is already that Rose capably serves her personal needs from the art while still meeting the listener’s needs which are going to differ with every audience member. She goes a little further off the beaten path for the second tune “Join Me” and the inviting nature of the title and lyrical content has deeper contexts attentive listeners will catch and enjoy. The musical textures here and elsewhere are so attention grabbing that we may miss her vocal excellence on each tune – there’s a different approach every time out and that sets her apart from singers, male and female, young or old. “Wrong” is the EP’s vocal highpoint. The arrangement takes some unexpected turns, imaginatively uses its traditional instrumentation while skewing the listener’s expectations some, and offers the vocals ample room to breathe and invent.

INSTAGRAM: www.instagram.com/lexieroses/

She explores her commercial side more with the next song “That’s Why” and it’s a cut that makes it clear how much mastery she has over the high end pop she’s pursues each time out. Piano is underrated instrument in Rose’s sonic wheelhouse, but the real sleeper star of On My Own is the drumming that manages to give each of the five songs a very different style. The title song ends this EP on a final creative high and seems like a place where Rose is both challenging herself on this release and looking toward a wider future with a song that stretches her talents as both a singer and songwriter to their current limits. The result is a resounding success. Lexie Rose’s On My Own plants her flag on the highest peak she can find with style and substance that many artists don’t develop until they reach their thirtieth birthday.

Photo Credit Sarvey T Rector

VEVO: www.vevo.com/watch/lexie-rose/wrong-(official-video)/QMGR31712706

Frank McClure

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