Friday, July 6, 2018

RBC Bluesfest - JENNA Nation

Ottawa's annual Bluesfest has really become a popular international music festival in the last several years.  The common joke locally centres around its lack of actual "Blues" in the headliners - but really, so much of today's music has its roots in blues, it doesn't really matter to me.

This year the biggest story was the killdeer nest preventing the main stage from going up for a little while.  Luckily that didn't stop anything, and the festival kicked off last night with leMeow and Bryan Adams.  Tonight is Jethro Tull but I wanted to highlight a local artist performing Saturday: JENNA Nation.  Her bio:

Born in Ottawa, Canada, JENNA Nation was introduced to music at an early age through her musical family. She began her career with extensive training and success with classical music/opera, jazz and then with R&B/soul while studying and graduating Summa Cum Laude with her Vocal Performance Degree from the famed Berklee College of Music. An outstanding vocalist with a charismatic stage presence, JENNA Nation progressed to hit some significant milestones early in her career.
JENNA Nation boasts a soulful and even jazzy vibe to her music. Long-time influences include Michael Jackson, Ella Fitzgerald, Judy Garland and Stevie Wonder—a notable name with whom she aspires to collaborate. JENNA Nation has worked with a number of Grammy and JUNO-nominated producers and songwriters with whom she collaborated to create her third and fourth albums of all original music. JENNA Nation’s fourth album, 'You Don’t Know' (2017) has already received numerous accolades. The album was named Canada's Best R&B Album of 2017, one of the Top 10 Best Records of the Year and #9 Best Album of 2017. 

Her music is all available on multiple platforms; I listened to 2017's "You Don't Know" on Spotify, and really enjoyed the R&B album.  Nation is probably one of the few artists on the Bluesfest slate actually playing a form of blues.  I especially liked "It's You" - it's got a great percussion beat and I enjoyed the lyrics. 

JENNA Nation plays at 5PM on the Main (City) Stage, ahead of Amos the Transparent (another local) and The Strumbellas.  Sounds like a great lineup to me.  You can get tickets at www.ottawabluesfest.ca.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Review: Jordan Max Only One Is King

Artist: Jordan Max
Album: Only One Is King
Year: 2016

"Only One Is King", an EP by Jordan Max released 2 years ago, is an artist/album that has shot up my personal charts. 

Some background on Max - he's a British artist and recently signed to Danger Mouse for publishing.  He's got a new single out ("War" - check out the video here), but Only One Is King was released independently. 

Actually, the story behind the album is kind of cool.  From a press release for his single "War":
Jordan Max made his debut in 2016 with his EP Only One Is King, written and recorded in the bedroom of his childhood home. Lead single “Hell” showcased his unique sound and earned him a spot on Complex’s “10 British R&B/Soul Artists To Watch in 2017,” in addition to praise from Consequence of Sound, i-D, Pigeons & Planes, Fader and more. 

His sound reminds me a lot of Alt-J, but a bit more on the bluesier side than rock.  There's quite a bit of darkness in his music as well, which at times seem to follow what I see as a bit of a trend in the alt-rock scene.  Still, blues & soul permeate through the tracks to make a unique sound. 

Keep your ears open for more from Jordan Max, it's worth a listen.  I give this EP 4/5.

Friday, June 15, 2018

Review: Dallas Wayne - Songs the Jukebox Taught Me: Volume II

I was recently given the opportunity for an advance listen & review of singer/songwriter/DJ Dallas Wayne's 2016 album, Songs the Jukebox Taught Me, ahead of the release of Songs the Jukebox Taught Me: Volume II.  Volume II is set to release next Friday, June 22nd.

The songs on "Jukebox" are pure, classic country.  They're all very well-produced, and are almost bare bones: you've got Wayne singing (and his own voice has that classic twang to it), steel guitar, and some light percussion behind most songs.  Sprinkle in some violin, bass guitar, and acoustic, and that's pretty much the album right there.

There are also some appearances by country vets in there, including Willie Nelson on the first track ("Your Time's Comin'").  The lyrical content is a mixed bag - there are songs about heartache, love, and just plain having a good time.  That to me is pretty much what I expect from most classic country songs.  I'm listening to the album over again as I write this, and "A Dime At A Time" is playing - love it when the piano comes in to add a little personality to the song.

Then you also have songs like "Devil in the Bottle" which sounds like a pretty personal song.  In fact I believe that Wayne put a lot of himself (whether it be through personal lyrics, or just his interpretations of 'traditional country themes') into this album.  This seems like it sounds exactly the way that he wanted it to sound. 

Here's some brief info about Dallas Wayne, in case you were curious (I was):

Dallas Wayne
  • Singer, songwriter, radio DJ, voice-over artist, actor and music producer
  • Recipient of multiple honors, including CMA of Texas Choice award, DJ of the Year and the Disc Jockey Hall of Fame
  • Staff songwriter for Warner/Chappell Music for six years
  • On-air personality for SIRIUSXM Satellite Radio’s Willie’s Roadhouse (Channel 59) and Outlaw Country (Channel 60)
  • Released 11 of his own albums, as well as being featured on five collaborative recordings, including the honky-tonk supergroups Heybale! and the TwangBangers, and a Grammy-nominated bluegrass album with Special Consensus
  • Graced some of the most hallowed stages in country music, from the Grand Ole Opry and the Kennedy Center, to the Ernest Tubb Midnite Jamboree and Willie Nelson’s Fourth of July Picnic
  • Opened shows for many of the biggest names in country music, including Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard, Jeannie Seely, Charlie Pride, Bobby Bare, Jerry Lee Lewis and Mickey Gilley, to name a few
  • Featured artist on “Larry’s Country Diner”
  • Numerous acting credits including the original Broadway cast of “Pump Boys and Dinettes”
  • Commercial voice overs for radio and TV including United Airlines, Chevrolet, McDonald’s, MTV and Avis, among others

My in-laws like to listen to Willie's Roadhouse a lot, so I thought it was cool to find out he's one of the on-air personalities there.

Anyway - if you're looking for some country music that isn't a cross between pop or rock, and closer to the classics, you should check out Songs The Jukebox Taught Me.  3/5.

In the meantime - here is the press release for the upcoming Volume II:

Country music artist and SiriusXM Willie’s Roadhouse and Outlaw Country host, Dallas Wayne will release his latest album, Songs The Jukebox Taught Me: Volume 2, on June 22.

“My latest album represents a continuing journey back to the songs that made me fall in love with classic country music. Together with the previous Songs The Jukebox Taught Me project, this collection of 25 songs is a tribute to the songwriters who crafted them, and the artists who sang them — the heroes and teachers who taught me this music,” Wayne said.

Artists such as Willie Nelson have already given positive reviews of the album: “I’m really enjoying listening to this new CD, Songs The Jukebox Taught Me Vol. 2, by Dallas Wayne. Great job on an old song of mine called ‘Blame It On The Times.’ Thanks for bringing this one back! Also, I love the Vern Gosdin cover, ‘Is It Raining At Your House.’ Remember our motto: If It Ain’t Broke, Break It.”

Songs The Jukebox Taught Me: Volume 2 comes as a sequel to Songs The Jukebox Taught Me: Volume 1, which was released in 2016. In addition to releasing a new album, Dallas will be performing throughout the year, with multiple shows in his home state of Texas. Keep up with all of Dallas’ tour dates on www.dallaswayne.com.

Dallas Wayne Tour Dates
June 27 – Tyler, Texas* - Liberty Hall (w/Connie Smith)
June 28 – Arlington, Texas* - Arlington Music Hall (w/Connie Smith)
June 29 – Waco, Texas* - Waco Hippodrome Theatre (w/Connie Smith)
June 30 – Weatherford, Texas* - Texas Opry Theater (w/Connie Smith)
July 7 – New York City, N.Y. - Lincoln Center Heybale Band
July 8 – Buffalo, N.Y. - Sportsmens Tavern Heybale Band
July 11 – Kansas City, Mo. - Carl Butler's Gospel LoungeKnuckleheads
July 12 – Kansas City, Mo. - Knuckleheads
July 13 -15 – Branson, Mo. - Hit Songwriters in the Round (Americana Theater)
July 28 – New Braunfels, Texas - Gruene Hall -Flat Top Jones (Gruene Hall)
Aug. 10-11 – Carthage, Texas - TX Country Music Hall of Fame Show
Aug. 16 – Waco, Texas* - Waco Hippodrome Theatre (w/Bellamy Brothers)
Aug. 25 - New Brunfels, Texas - Gruene Hall - Flat Top Jones Band
Oct. 27 – New Braunfels, Texas - Gruene Hall - Flat Top Jones Band
Nov. 1 – Waco, Texas - Waco Hippodrome Theatre (w/John Conlee)
Nov. 3 – Carthage, Texas* - Carthage High School (w/John Conlee)
Nov. 24 – New Braunfels, Texas - Gruene Hall -Flat Top Jones Band
*Dallas emcees/opens the show

About Dallas Wayne

“My latest album represents a continuing journey back to the songs that made me fall in love with classic country music. Together with the previous Songs The Jukebox Taught Me project, this collection of 25 songs is a tribute to the songwriters who crafted them, and the artists who sang them — the heroes and teachers who taught me this music,” Wayne said.
Artists such as Willie Nelson have already given positive reviews of the album: “I’m really enjoying listening to this new CD, Songs The Jukebox Taught Me Vol. 2, by Dallas Wayne. Great job on an old song of mine called ‘Blame It On The Times.’ Thanks for bringing this one back! Also, I love the Vern Gosdin cover, ‘Is It Raining At Your House.’ Remember our motto: If It Ain’t Broke, Break It.”
Songs The Jukebox Taught Me: Volume 2 comes as a sequel to Songs The Jukebox Taught Me: Volume 1, which was released in 2016. In addition to releasing a new album, Dallas will be performing throughout the year, with multiple shows in his home state of Texas. Keep up with all of Dallas’ tour dates on www.dallaswayne.com.

Friday, June 8, 2018

Kalie Shorr - Awake (Review)

Kalie Shorr - Awake
Another one of those "off my radar" music submission reviews!  This time, it's Kalie Shorr's Awake EP, which was released January 26th of this year.  Here's a bit of the press release:

Country rockstress Kalie Shorr released Awake last night to an at-capacity crowd of fans, music industry and friends in Nashville. The highly-anticipated new project features seven songs that bring a rock-infused sound to country, showcasing Shorr’s authenticity, passion and energy which she injects into her music. Awake is available now on iTunesApple MusicGoogle PlayAmazon Music and Spotify.

So let's unpack this EP a little bit.  The album is most definitely a country-rock album, reminding me a lot of Miranda Lambert (thinking her Kerosene days as I haven't heard much of her recent music).  If I were to describe the EP as a radio station, it would be the local Country station that drops in songs that straddle the tip of the country-rock-pop triangle.  

I felt that the EP started off on the softer side, and built up to a rougher, rock-infused ending.  I appreciated the build-up.  I haven't checked the country charts to see how Kalie's doing, but I imagine that "Who What When Where Why" would be a song that will do well.  I like that one, and "Cool Kids" quite a bit.  "Two Hands" is also not too bad, being a bit of a love ballad.  

OK scratch that, I did do some research, I'm not THAT lazy.  Turns out that "Two Hands" was released as a single and quickly added to rotation on Sirius XM, featured on The Highway, as well as added to Radio Disney Country (there were some promotional exclusives involved with Disney and a few other properties) and TuneIn.  Unfortunately I don't see her name anywhere on the Billboard charts but it sounds like she's still getting airplay out there.  

Definitely recommend this one if you're into rock-infused country.  3.5/5.

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Flavia - Hateful (Single)

This past Friday June 1, electronic pop artist FLAVIA released a new single called "Hateful".  Prior to this track, I had never heard of Flavia, so I'll let the press release do some talking:

FLAVIA is an electronic pop artist based in Los Angeles, CA. She mixes dark pop and futuristic R&B, exploring the borderland of yesterday’s soul and tomorrow’s electronica. She started to write music at a young age in Ireland and Italy, where she spent her formative years. Having moved often growing up, she feels the closest thing to home-base in her music. “It’s a part of me,” she says. “I couldn’t escape it event if I wanted to.” 

In listening to "Hateful", I definitely caught wind of all of these influences in her music.  Oddly enough I also got a bit of a "Lorde" vibe in her music, which is not at all a bad thing.

Here's some info about the new track:
Sharing a powerful message for kindness, strength, and human condition, Hateful was inspired by FLAVIA’s own real-life experiences. Reflecting on such experiences opened the way for the larger issues of animosity, division, and bullying in our society today. With the release of her debut single, FLAVIA hopes to reach out to victims of hatred and bullying, and to remind people to treat others with love and respect.
I can get behind that sentiment.  I think that a lot of people share her views toward bullying (online bullying especially) so hearing art related to that is welcome.  It helps take the power away from the people who would direct their hatred toward us. 

As for listening the track itself, you can find it on Spotify!  Check out Flavia's website at http://www.flavia.la, and be sure to check out her YouTube channel as well!  It opens up with the track "No Gravity" and it's super cool. 



Friday, May 25, 2018

Anela & The Early Hours - Yesteryear

I received this email submission back in June 2017; so right off the bat, a slap on the hand to me for not getting to the review until now, nearly a year later.


Anela & The Early Hours is an indie pop group out of London, Ontario.  Yesteryear is their debut album; here are some of my thoughts about it.

Right off the top, I have to be honest and say that this album did not "wow" me.  I feel that it is a solid, well-produced album, but it doesn't stand out as something special to me.  That said, I would still recommend giving this album a listen. 

Like I said, it sounds well-produced.  It's "radio ready", in the sense that it sounds good over my speakers and headphones - the sound isn't too flat or anything like that.  Guitar work in the 7 tracks is delicate but has a presence, and the drums have a certain "pop" to it.  I like lead singer Anela Navarro's voice, though it doesn't fluctuate through very much range (however it sounds like she potentially has a wide vocal range in her if she chose to use it). 

Singles from the album include "Space" and "All Alone", for which there are some YouTube videos you can watch: here and here.  The stand-out track for me though was "Stuck With You" - I liked that one the best.

Overall, "Yesteryear" is a good album and I recommend it.  3/5.  You can purchase it from iTunes, or stream it on Spotify/Soundcloud/Bandcamp (link above).

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Radio Free Burrito Mixtape: If This Be Sin


Friday, April 20, 2018

10 Waves Of You - Sail

Sometimes I go down a very strange rabbit hole on Jamendo.  The other day on the radio, I heard some jazz in the background and decided that I wanted to listen to some jazz while I worked.  Instead, I did some clicking around to see what was new and found this 4-track instrumental EP from a musician called 10 Waves Of You, "Sail".

First, a little about 10 Waves Of You; here's their bio as written on Jamendo:
10 Waves of You is an Italian Ambient Post Rock one man band from Milan (Italy) formed in 2014. Luca Crivellaro plays guitar, bass, voice, keys, piano, synths and percussion. I'm am a free diver (not scuba diver!) When i make music i search for the same emotions that I feel when I free dive in the underground water: alone, curious, numb, trying to reach every possible positive vibes from the underwater creatures and hidden world. I hope my music will make you think, feel and imagine…
 So, some interesting notes there.  I really like what Crivellaro has put together with this little EP.  The title track, Sail, was my favourite by far.  Stay with me on this point: I enjoyed the Twilight films, and thought the best part of them was Carter Burwell's scores (Amazon: Twilight [The Score], The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 2 The Score Music by Carter Burwell).  The piano work is fantastic, and that's the vibe I got from Sail and the other 4 tracks on the album.  I found the album as a whole calming and relaxing, and listened while I got my work done.

On the slightly negative side, the album is too short for me.  At 4 tracks, I had to move onto something different pretty quickly.  Also, some of the tracks edged too close to the "elevator / hold music" category, which was a little off-putting.

Overall I recommend it, especially "Sail".  You can find the album on Jamendo here:

https://www.jamendo.com/album/158044/sail



Friday, April 13, 2018

Jamendo's Current Best Of All Genres

There are some pretty solid tracks on Jamendo's "Best Of All Genres" list when you head over to the main page.  Here are some highlights for me:

Pure Mids - These Days - A nice, light pop-rock tune.  I could definitely find a place for this group in my rotation of music.  Pure Mids are an American group.

Always the Alibi - After All I've Done
Always the Alibi - Ain't Another Girl

Two-for-one deal here with Always the Alibi, providing some solid rock for your Friday morning.  Another American group, from the Dallas-Fort Worth area.  Wonder if they know Chip and Joanna from Fixer Upper?

Jekk - Strong - Smooth soul.  Jekk is a French artist and has been making music since 2014. 

OnClassical - E. Satie - Trois Gnossiennes - I. Lent - Alessandro Simonetto - OnClassical is a great Italian collective on Jamendo.  They release some well-produced classical music.  It's really relaxing and helps get work done.

Tony Petersen - James Alley Blues - The song title says "blues", but it's pure folk.




Friday, April 6, 2018

Recommendation: Daniel Robinson - Little Birds

Just thought I'd throw out a quick recommendation!  I found this on Jamendo the other day, and thought it was a great folk/pop album.  Some of the tracks are a little dreamy, which is great.  I didn't like Those Were The Days too much; Nowhere to Hide and Little Birds were definitely standout tracks for me. 

I was listening to The Decemberists' new album before dropping into this one, and the transition worked well for me.  If you have some time, take a listen to Daniel Robinson's Little Birds.

https://www.jamendo.com/album/175519/little-birds