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While this website has become known for its in-depth album and concert reviews, the digest contains concise comments on new music our audience has either recommended or might enjoy. Click on album covers or label names for links to further information. Click on the title to view the article.

Content
Méav
S. & K. Lynn Huggens
Jenna Music
Annbjorg Lien
Ginny Owens
Esther Valentine
Robin Greenspan
Kristin Banks
Larisa Stow
Fisher
Vagabond Lovers

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Instrumental Digest
 
Méav Self-titled CD Cover
Image © 2000 Hearts Of Space

More Méav Ní Mhaolchatha
Interview and Photos (2007)
Interview and Photos (2002)
Silver Sea
 

(27 February 2000) The Irish choral group Anúna are well known for the soprano vocalists they have produced over the years—Eimear Quinn won Eurovision with "The Voice" in 1996. Méav Ni Mhaolchatha—also from Anúna—gained international attention with the group as a featured soloist performing in the London and US productions of Riverdance and on their albums. Eimear and Méav are the dominant soloists on Omnis and are the two women in the centre of this 1996 Anúna photo. Entitled Méav (Hearts O' Space (USA) 11098-2, 2000), her debut album reveals an effortless mastery of Celtic and classical pieces, traditional songs and early music. Méav's crystalline soprano voice is perfectly accompanied by contemporary and elegant instrumental arrangements.

The album's repertoire consists of twelve relatively well-known compositions. "Ailein Duinn" (theme from the motion picture Rob Roy) originally performed by Capercaillie's (review) Karen Matheson is sung wonderfully and sensitively in Gaelic and backed with lovely instrumentation. The flute part is incredible. Méav's stunning soprano rendition of "I Dreamt I Dwelt In Marble Halls" originally written by Michael Balfe in 1843 for his opera The Bohemian Girl pales Enya's version on Shepherd Moons. David Downes' rich arrangement of "She Moved Through The Fair" with additional vocals and orchestra perfectly suits Méav's vocal performance. Mark Armstrong's arrangement of "I'm A Doun" with similar textures provides a contrast to Vanessa Mae's 1996 recording. The classic "Solveig's Song" was written by Greig in 1876. Méav writes about the calling vocalise within the track, "I love the ethereal wordless melody that forms its chorus." Crystalline solo vocals over light acoustic guitar and violin are joined by whistle in the Irish classic "I Wish My Love Was A Red, Red Rose" and by traditional drums and additional backing vocals in "Si do Mhaimeó í".

Méav's sublimely clear vocals dominate the modern ballad "Since You and I Were True" as well as in the traditional of "The Death of Queen Jane" written for the court of King Henry VII in the early 1500s. Listen for the harpsichord and the flute in the instrumental bridge. The sensitive vocals for the soft lullaby "Close Your Eyes" are accompanied by lovely violin and harp performances. A stunning a capella performance is used to introduce "One I Love"; vocals are lightly multi-tracked during the song's choruses and only the very slightest instrumentation backs it in parts. The album closes with the track "Celtic Prayer." Soaring vocals are combined with a grand instrumental arranged to passes the melody from instrument to instrument, certain to entrall a broad audiences.

You can order Méav's album via amazon.com here. Méav's self-titled debut is clearly one of the best heavenly vocal albums we have heard in a long time and with stunning crystalline vocal renditions of well-known compositions, it is worth a long distance journey and significant further exploration. Now released in the USA and other territories, it is definitely a must listen!

 
Stu & Keri Lynn Huggens CD Cover
Image © 1999 River Basin Records 
 

(27 February 2000) The self-titled and independently produced debut album (full size photo) by father and daughter duo Stu & Keri Lynn Huggens (photo) was released in 1999. The pair of five-track Digital Audio Music (DAM) CDs available from mp3.com (Stu & Keri Lynn Huggens and Same Old Game) together contain the same tracks as the self-titled commercial release. MP3's DAMs will play mp3 format on computer using provided Macromedia software as well as normal audio on a standard CD player.

Classified by the Lancaster, Pennsylvania artists as 'American Music,' the album is rooted in country, touched by swing, enriched in blues, tempered by folk and kicked by rock. Well produced and balanced instrumentation backs lovely vocal work by the duo. Keri Lynn (photo) is a very attractive young lady with an equally stunning voice; note her visual similarity to the everso popular Katie Holmes (Dawson's Creek). Further information and photographs are available at the artist's official website while free music downloads are available at their mp3.com webpage. [all Photos © Krisha Martzall, 1999]

Vocals for the album are deeply rooted in a country style. Keri Lynn sings sweetly in mid register and has quite a bit of power. The photos available at their website and critics' acclaim indicate she must be dynamite to see perform live. While Keri Lynn likely has an equally extensive range, the songs on the album don't demand it. Stu sings, plays acoustic guitar and wrote or co-wrote most of the material on the album. Further instrumentation is provided by supporting musicians: Mickey Dean (lead guitar); Mike Bitts (bass and baritone guitar); Dave Spak (drums and percussion); Lee Derstler (pedal and steel guitar); Chris DeVitry (fiddle); Mike Wolpert (keyboards and piano); Dave Huxta (bass on "Troubled Waters") and Paul Keaveney (acoustic slide guitar).

The duo alternate singing lead while the other sings harmonies—an effective and attractive combination of voices. Stu sings lead vocals on "Solid Roots" and the sensitive ballad "That's What Love Is About." He also leads the way on the album's closing track, a swinging bluesy number entitled "Why Did I Bite That Apple." Keri Lynn sings lead on "Same Old Game, Brand New Love" and the two tracks she wrote for the album, sensitive ballads entitled "Troubled Waters" and "My Child." She also sings lead on the swinging country tune "All Hat, No Cattle." The country ballad "All Over Again Tonight" and the rocking tune "Trouble's Coming" are sung as thoughtfully produced duets. A cross between swing and rock, Stu also sings lead on "When Elvis Gives Another Cadillac Away."

Clearly the album is a collection of eclectic and interesting interesting vocal numbers. The complete album may be purchased from the artists' website or as two CDs from mp3.com. Different from the styles of music reviewed typically at Musical Discoveries, we found the music easy to sample online and the technical quality of their commercial release to be quite good. It should be further explored by those wishing to expand their entertainment sphere—a nice listen!.

 
Jenna Music Self-titled CD Cover
Image © 1999 Weeping Buddha Music 
 

(26 February 2000) The self-titled independently produced debut album by Jenna Music was released in late 1998. From their website, "Jenna Music is a rock and roll band. Based in Los Angeles, California, the idea for the band was conceived four years ago by Jenna [Lee], the band's leader, singer and songwriter. In late 1993, Jenna put a small band together to accompany her quickly growing repetoire of songs and began to perform at local coffee houses and acoustic clubs. Soon after in early 1995, the band evolved into an all-electric four-piece rock group and became Jenna & The Weeping Buddhas. Under this name, they quickly began to rise to the top of the local Los Angeles scene, performing regularly at The Viper Room and The House of Blues.

"In 1998, after gaining local popularity, they changed their name to Jenna Music, released their first CD independently and began to perform in several regions outside of Los Angeles, including San Francisco, Dallas, Atlanta, San Luis Obispo and San Diego. Over the past two years, Jenna (lead vocals, guitar), James Patterson (bass), and Brett Garsed (lead guitar, vocals) have been playing heavily, and gaining recognition from such magazines as Musician and LA Weekly." They have also had three songs from their album featured on hit television shows Dawson's Creek and Time of Your Life. A second album is in the works. There are several songs available for online listening at their mp3.com website.

The album is comprised of nine average length tracks of varying styles centered around Jenna's lead vocals. Her emotional delivery likely led to the music being selected for popular television series soundtracks. Highly accessible mid-tempo songs include the album's opener "If It's Love," "Reality Hurts" and "Hardest Thing." The band's more agressive style is heard in "Little Bit Of My Love" with elements of jazz and blues they call 'groove-oriented rock.' A rich almost orchestral guitar style emerges in "All For You." Jenna's power and range are illustrated in the moving track entitled "Wait For Me." Her backing vocal part is equally notable. "Moving Like Water" is a slower track with a slight country edge and Rikki Lee Jones-like vocals. An lovely ballad with sensitive vocals, "See Right Through You," is a certain favourite; it concludes the album.

The artwork that accompanies the compact disc contains full lyrics, performing and recording credits and various photos of Jenna and her band. Further biographical information is available on the band's website. You can order Jenna Music's debut album at amazon.com here. A lovely album with heartfelt rock songs with expressive female vocals, this debut is a nice listen!

 
Baba Yaga CD Cover
Image © 2000 Grappa Records 
 

(26 February 2000) Vocal elements combine with modern instrumental arrangements on the eleven tracks that comprise this worldly progressive Celtic-oriented album. Our review of—Norway's leading Hardangerfiddle player—Annbjørg Lien's latest album, Baba Yaga (NorthSide (USA) NSD6044, 2000) is as comfortable here as it would be in our our Instrumental Album Review Digest. The album is a modern mystical tapestry incorporating ancient sounds and sprits with the modern age; her band brings elements from all over the world to a distinctly Norwegian traditional base. More photographs and further information are available at Annbjørg's own website.

From the notes that accompanied our promotional copy, "Baba Yaga is an original instrumental concept album, written by the aritst with producer/band member Bjørn Ole Rasch based on old Russian fairy tales. Lien and Rasch chronicle with words and music an encounter between the title character, a powerful and multi-faceted being, and a joyn mand to whom she teached and upon whom she confers gifts. It's Lien's hypnotic Hardanger fiddle (a violin with a flatter fingerboard and a set of sympathetic strings that resonate as the instrument is played) and Nyckelharpa (keyed fiddle) playing and vocals along with the imaginative contributions of her band members—Rasch Bjørn Ole on keyboards, minimoog and programming; with Rune Arnesen on percussion; Hans Fredrik Jacobsen on flutes, bagpipe and Meraker clarined and oud; and Roger Tallroth on guitar—that tell the story, as well as convey its deeper metaphor for the psyche."

Lovers of the fiddle music in Riverdance and Lord Of The Dance will certainly appreciate the album's progressive Celtic style with its rich orchestral arrangements ("Iriandia," "Old Larry" and "Ritual"). Annbjørg Lien explains, "Baba Yaga stands for both the dark and the bright side of the human." The album's multi-textured title track weaves international themes "into a stunning mini-epic inspired by Mussorgsky's "Pictures At An Exhibition" and is even reminscent in places of Emerson, Lake and Palmer—especially in the electronic instrumental bridge within "Wackidoo"! The calling soprano vocals in "Ája," are most reminscent of those in Robert Prizeman's Libera (more info at amazon.com here). Lien further explains the central character's influence, "She forces us to confront the dark side of our being and control it by bringing it over to the bright side. She gives us a big room to work in musically, we have wide contrasts in the tunes and each one shows a different side of her." We are told that Annbjørg 's on stage performances are hypnotic, her connection with the audience is powerful and her one-on-one eye contact with her fans is riveting. Her music is wonderful as well.

Fiddle parts indeed dominate the album, but several of the tracks have been produced to highlight Annbjørg Lien's performances. These include the "January," "W." (a completely stunning track dedicated to the memory of Hans W. Brimi) and the uptempo "Wackidoo." Lien is a representative for Save The Children and travelled to Mozambique with Bukkene Bruse. She writes, "there we had an intense experience dancing and singing with the local children, learned Norwegians move their hips as though they were made of wood, and discovered that music is life itself. The worldly track "Inoque" is dedicated to that experience.

You can order Annbjørg Lien's Baba Yaga via amazon.com here. Certainly worthy of further exploration by those riveted by stunning fiddle (e.g. Vanessa Mae) performances, her latest album has evolved to a unique worldly texture combining rich instrumental arrangements with vocal passages. Celtic, international and new age—it is a must listen!.

 
Without Condition CD Cover
Image © 1999 Rocketown Records 
 

(26 February 2000) The debut adult contemporary album from piano-based singer songwriter Ginny Owens is entitled Without Condition (Rocketown/Epc (USA) EK63617, 1999). The compact disc is enhanced with interview segments designed to play with Quicktime's 16-bit player—the CD will not play on your computer if this is not installed properly. Owens lost her sight at the age of two and overcame significant personal challenges to culminate currently with five Dove award nominations and a standing ovation at the BMG Music Showcase at the Sundance Film Festival. Her songs have also been featured in Warner television's Felicity and Roswell. Her full biography, soundbites and further information including artist photographs are available at Ginny's website.

Without Condition is comprised of eleven tracks of varied contemporary, vocally strong, styles penned by Ginny alone or with co-writers Michael Puryear, Kyle Matthews or Dwight Liles. Lyrics and themes are often secular in nature. "Be Thou My Vision," which opens the album with Ginny's stunning—almost a capella—vocal performance, is a well known traditional Irish hymn; Joanne Hogg (Iona) also recorded it on her album Looking Into Light (review). The album's title track, "Someone Searching" and "If You Want Me To" continue to develop the album's secular theme. Sensitive ballads sung mainly over piano, the latter has a jazz edge while the first—with its incredible vocal performance—was featured on WB hit series Felicity, Roswell and Charmed. A mid-tempo heartfelt ballad, "I Am Nothing" further develops the theme with clear vocals and richer instrumentation. The varied texture of the album's songs is refreshing.

"I Wanna Be Moved" and "Land Of The Gray" have a more agressive vocal approach with thicker guitar and keyboard lines and contribute significantly Ginny's balanced approach to contemporary music. "Free" was the album's first single and it went straight to the top of various Adult Conteporary charts. Here and in the up-tempo "Springs Of Life" Ginny's vocal work is most reminscent of Andrea Corr (concert review) and the multitracked backing vocals add significant texture to the artist's overall sound. The bluesy "Symbol Of A Lost Cause" with its harsher vocal line and thick instrumentation shows yet another side of Ginny's talent. The album closes with "Own Me," a lovely sensitive and heartfelt ballad sung over acoustic piano.

You can order Ginny Owen's Without Condition album via amazon.com here. With excellent support by the industry as evidenced by numerous award nominations and critical acclaim, Ginny has a bright future. Her music certainly should be explored further. Her stunning debut album with its varying styles is certainly a must listen!

 
Can't Watch Yourself Dance CD Cover
Image © 1999 Hidden Star Publishing 
 

(26 February 2000) The debut album from singer songwriter Esther Valentine is entitled Can't Watch Yourself Dance (MadamRex (USA), 1999). It is comprised of seven richly instrumented and vocally staggering tracks written and arranged by the artist. Esther's core group includes: Garrison White (acoustic guitar); Gregg Montante (electric guitar, production and mixing with Ken Allardyce); Robbie Myers (drums and percussion); Joe Caccavo (electric bass); Robin Rader (flute); and Connie Deeter (stand-up bass). Vocal performances, instrumental arrangements and production quality of the recording are absolutely tops. Additional biographic information and photographs are available at Esther's website. Soundbites are available from her mp3.com website.

With stated influences including Joni Mitchell, Kate Bush, The Beatles, Elton John and similarities including Natalie Merchant, Loreena McKennitt, Enya and Linda Rondstadt, one certainly expects the artist's first album to exhibit vocal virtuousity—Can't Watch Yourself Dance delivers from the first, it's title, track. The vocal lines and supporting flute within the mainly acoustic instrumental mix are highly memorable, drawing the listener into the recording. Although the genre of the varied yet rocking "I Can't Keep Jennifer Waiting" and "Lost Emotion" differs from Kate Bush's typical sound, Esther's sensitive vocals are quite reminscent of the well known artist's in this terrific track. The layers of backing vocals in the choruses are especially notable.

While the album is vocally oriented, the instrumental arrangements have actually been given equal emphasis, adding to the overall quality of the album. "Dreaming" is lighly arranged with flute and strings carrying the backing for Esther's most sensitive vocal lead and a similarity to Jeni Saint (review). Esther's vocal harmonies in this track and the highly accessible "When the Idol Falls" with its richer instrumental production, soaring lead and thicker backing vocals are wonderful.

"When Your Eyes Stop Talking" is lovely highly emotive ballad sung over the lightest instrumentation that builds to compliment soaring vocals as the song develops. Perhaps most illustrative of Esther's vocal dexterity, it is a stunning track. The album concludes with the brief multi-tracked a capella "If My Complaints Your Passions Move."

Esther Valentine's Can't Watch Yourself Dance is a stunning tribute to a rising west coast talent. Vocally strong with tremendous instrumental arrangements the recording is certainly worthy of further exploration—a must listen!

 
Garden Of Eden CD Cover
Image © 1999 Bum's Rush Records 
 

(20 February 2000) Her career to date includes comedy, singing and songwriting. Robin Greenspan's first album, entitled Gardener of Eden (Bum's Rush Records (USA) RGGOE 726, 1999) is comprised of eleven alternative rock tracks featuring the artist's stunning and highly accessible vocal style. She wrote all the music and lyrics and The Turtles' Andy Cahan did the keyboards, acoustic guitar, programming and co-produced the album.

Robin is known to audiences as a stand-up comic and an actress and has appeared on Comedy Central's Out There In Hollywood, Showtime's In Through The Door and has toured the US and Canada. Once the lead singer songwriter of her own band, Arms Akimbo, Gardener of Eden is Robin's debut solo album. Her critically acclaimed one-woman show Kickin' Hard played to sold-out houses at the HBO Workspace in Hollywood and featured some of the songs from the album as does the stage play Real Girls which she co-wrote and starred in with Lacie Harmon. Other critics have described Greenspan's music as "poetic," "provcative" and infectious" and her vocals as "a hybrid of a more classically trained Tori Amos and Natalie Merchant." While we agree with these comments, Robin's vocal work at times is reminiscent of Heart's Ann Wilson and Lana Lane (feature).

Lacie Harmon wrote, 'On Gardener of Eden the artist takes on many topics from original sin on the title track to an exploration of the mind of Janis Joplin on the haunting ballad, "Comfort".' The album opens with an alternative rock track, entitled "Lay It On The Line," lush with its instrumentals and striking with Robin's vocal work. The rocking ballad "Wierd Love" is sylistically most similar to those Lana Lane has sung, and Robin's powerful voice soars above the instrumentals. By contrast, "October" has a slight country edge, much like we've heard from Heart during their career. Vocally stunning, the production quality of the instrumentation on the track is also excellent. The jazziness of the piano sets the mood for "Measly Little Me" while vocal effects also add to the mood of the track. "Kickin' Hard" is an emotionally delivered, vocally soaring, ballad accompanied largely by piano with other supporting instrumentals.

The album's title track is a highly accessible rocking track with thick keyboards and lovely (at times multi-tracked) vocals created in a 10,000 Maniacs-style. "I'm Not Through" continues in a similar style with keyboard replaced by guitar and crisp percussion. "Comfort" and "Don't Let Nobody" have a jazzy beat and are sung more deeply, the former in a slightly spoken style, with thick guitars underscored by keyboards. Reminscent of some of Kate Bush's most dramatic work, the short track "Psychic Power Shack" has lovely vocals and crosses over between jazz (with its tremendous big band sounding instrumentals) and alternative rock textures—highly accessible with a nice hook, the track will please many female vocal enthusiasts. The album closes with the soaring vocal of jazz-influenced "Optimistic"; multi-tracked vocals provide a great effect as do the stunning instrumentals and highly notable guitar solo.

Be sure to visit Robin's mp3.com website. You can also hear soundbites of the tracks and order Robin Greenspan's Gardener of Eden at her website and even more at amazon.com. This is an album certain to please many female vocal enthusiasts and one worth a journey. Be sure to check out the soundbites online—a great listen!

 
House Of Echoes CD Cover
Image © 1998 Moon-Rose Records 
 

(20 February 2000) The debut album from singer songwriter Kristin Banks, entitled House Of Echoes (Moon-Rose Records (USA) KB101-D, 1998) is a collection of twelve highly accessible and well produced songs. The Connecticut native began her training at Hartt School of Music at the age of 13. Later she studied Musical Theatre at Syracuse University and moved to Southern California. Kristin sang for the country dance band Ramblin' Rose and was nominated for "Best New Female Vocalist" by the California Country Music Association in 1996 before launching her solo career. Now based in San Diego Kristin specialises in soft rock and pop love songs with excellent dramatic and theatrical delivery.

Supported by guitars, keyboards, bass and percussion, Kristin's debut album is first and foremost a vocal-oriented album. Additional backing vocals are by Kristin, Patty Klien, Sara Weivoda and Sharon Bishop. Ten of the tracks are written by Kristin herself while the remaining two are co-written with Rick "Raven" P., who also plays guitar and verious keyboards on the album. Instrumental production is top notch and faithfully permit Kristin's theatrically soaring vocals to dominate the album.

The album opens with a very catchy and somewhat country-style ballad entitled "Tossin' Anchors"—Kristin's voice will capture the attention of the listner, regardless of their typical musical preference. Evocative and theatrical, the title track is a slow ballad with lush instrumentation carried by a piano melody and stunning vocals. The album's soft rock numbers have richer production, more backing vocals and modern vocal effects that add lustre to the sound of Kristin's voice. "A Better World," the exquisite "City Of Angels" and "One Small Candle," with its lovely guitar part. The style is further echoed and combined with a slight country edge in "These Dreams Of Mine."

"Jewel In Your Crown" and "Danglin' From Your Chain" are sensitively sung ballads sung performed with light instrumentation and only a touch of backing vocals. The lovely soft rock ballads "Another Woman's Dream" and "Midnight Lady" are certainly most illustrative of the extensive the range, emotional depth and sheer power of Kristin's voice. The most accessible track on the album, co-written with Rick "Raven" P., is "Make You Mine," is a testament to their songwriting, instrumental production and Kristin's soaring vocal ability—and one with single and airplay potential. Dramatic and theatrically sung with lush instrumentation, "Rest In Peace" concludes the album, again illustrating Kristin's vocal power, emotional energy and tremendous range.

An album certain to please female vocalist enthusiasts, House Of Echoes is stunning and captivated us from first listen. Kristin's striking visual similarity to the UK's Patsy Palmer (East Enders) and the Sarah ("Fergie") Ferguson (Dutchess Of York) in some photos doesn't hurt her either! An extensive array of soundbites can be heard at her mp3.com website. A digital audio music CD with nine of her debut album's tracks can also be obtained there. You can order Kristin's album House Of Echoes from amazon.com here. Certainly worthy of extensive exploration, this album is a must listen!

 
Moment By Moment (DTS) CD Cover
Image © 2000 DTS Entertainment 
 

(20 February 2000) Larisa Stow's debut album Moment By Moment is a tremendous recording, alive with sound, soaring vocals and production quality second to none. It is available either in standard compact disc format (Open Heart Records (USA) OH-12456, 1999) or in Digital Surround 20-bit DTS format (DTS Entertainment (USA) 7 1021-51054-2 2, 1999). Those with DVD players and home theater systems should seek out the DTS version. Larisa most recently won the coveted 1999 "Most Outstanding Female Singer" at the ninth annual Los Angeles Music Awards. She was also selected as one of "Music Connection's Top 1999 Unsigned Artists of the Year"; a submission to the Levi/Lilith Fair Acoustic Talent Search won her a performance with Grammy award winner Sarah McLachlan. An extensive interview from DTS Sound Waves (Volume No. 12, Fall 1999) addresses the artist's background, songwriting thoughts, and unique production process insights. A must read, it has been transcribed by the label and is available here.

All lead vocals for the album's ten tracks were sung by Larisa. The songs were also written by Larisa—three of them were co-written with David DelGrosso who also recorded the acoustic guitar parts on the album. Much of the additional sonic texture on the album is directly attributable to keyboard and violin parts played by Diana Lorden. Timothy Chen (electric guitar), Matthew Basile (bass) and Bryn Mathieu (drums and percussion) also perform on the album. David Tickle, who also did the 5.1 re-mixes of Sting's Ten Summoner's Tales and The Police: Every Breath You Take (greatest hits compilation) is credited as the producer and mixer of Larisa's DTS 5.1 release. The recording has a remarkable "live" sound to it, making excellent use of the DTS 5.1 technology, marrying it perfectly to Larisa Stow's music. Wonderful!

The album's opening track "Blue Mountain" is highly illustrative of the range, depth and power of Larisa Stow's vocal work and her songwriting. Whispery, melodic and soaring vocals are combined in one track, rich with guitar-based instrumentals, power-pop and jazz rolled together to a marvelous effect. Jazzy instrumentals, including a highly notable violin part, join powerful vocals not unlike Lana Lane, Robin Greenspan and Ann Wilson in the rocking ballad entitled "Living In Your Eyes"—a certain favourite for female vocalist enthusiasts. "Heaven" is a texturally thicker track, rough and hard in spots, with a highly memorable backing vocal part. "Invitation" is sung in range of styles from soft to hard to spoken, soaring with power and passion, accompanied by a lovely violin part.

The most sensitive of the album's ballads is "Corner (4th & Cerry)," accompanied by acoustic guitar alone and is a certain testament to the artists' vocal virtuousity. "Flame" picks up on this style beginning as a ballad and migrating into a powerful vocally rich rocker with deeply textured violin-laced textures, and a tremendous chorus. "I Lied" is jazzy and powerful with a country edge and interesting vocal and instrumental excursions. "Moment By Moment" is certainly the most accessible track of the album, with each verse building to a completely hooking chorus, soaring vocals—in all of Larisa's styles—and tremendous instrumental arrangements including some notable guitar and violin solos.

The album's final two tracks are certain to please frequent Musical Discoveries visitors. The variation in style and highly textured instrumental arrangements contribute to the progressive rock Kate Bush / Michelle Young (feature) sound of "The Serial Dream"—it would be awesome to see performed live. The album concludes with the ballad "Innocence," a track rich with lush keyboard-based orchestral style arrangements and Larisa's sensual, evocative and melodic soaring lead vocal—a certain favourite and totally tremendous track—this is Larisa Stow!

You can order Larisa Stow's Moment By Moment at amazon.com. Soundbites and a sampler digital audio music CD are available at Larisa Stow's mp3.com website. Larisa Stow's music is worthy of a long distance journey for further detailed exploration either in DTS 5.1 sound or vanilly CD format. Try it today—the album is a must listen!

 
Fisher One CD Cover
Image © 1999 Rawfish Records 
 

(20 February 2000) Fisher's debut release is entitled One (Rawfish Records (USA) FTRC1001). Fronted by the extremely attractive lead vocalist Kathy Fisher, who also sang the song "Breakable" on the Great Expectations soundtrack, the nine-track vocally intense recording also includes contributions by Ron Wasserman (production, programming, keys, bass, drums and backing vocals), John Adair (guitars), Cush (guitars and backing vocals), Shawn Jones (harmonica) and Jo Pusateri (drums). The majority of the writing was done by Fisher and RAW (Ron Wasserman) although one track was co-written with John Adair.

Fisher's music is highly accessible and pop oriented, highly vocally influenced with thick guitar and keyboard providing additional dimensions and texture. The album's opening track, "Any Way," has a highly memorable chorus with a strong hook, and the instrumental arrangements perfectly compliment the occasional multi-tracked vocal. "Never Say Never" is more choral in its vocal texture and dramatic in its arrangement while "The Life" builds a power pop texture with almost spoken vocal part, further melodic and highly layered sung vocals and a deeply textured and rich guitar arrangement.

"True North" and "I Will Love You" are a softly sung ballads, the former textured with guitar and light keyboard and the latter accompanied by piano alone. Here Fisher's emotional delivery is perfectly complimented by the softness, sensitivity and energy of her voice. "True North" has additional backing vocals layered with light instrumentation. The track "Had To" continues much in the same vein, opening almost a capella, yet building with powerful instrumentals and soaring vocals to a rocking crescendo—the entire range a testament to the artist's talent.

The track "Hello It's Me" combines jazz musings—piano, sax, snare drum and bass—and rock sensibilities with a high energy vocal part and memorable hook. "Every Time" is a dance-oriented pop number with lots of percussion, thick guitar and a highly memorable vocally multi-layered chorus—the vocal work and instrumental arrangements are highly notable. The slow moving and highly varied arrangements of "Six Hundred 66" conclude the album.

You should be able to order Fisher's One album at her website. Be sure to check out the soundbites at her www.mp3.com website. Fisher's One is an exciting debut and illustrative of a stunning artist with lots of potential. The songs should be sampled online and the album further explored by female vocal enthusiasts—a very nice listen!

 
When I Was You CD Cover
Image © 2000 Monarch Records 
 

(20 February 2000) The electrifying five-piece Vagabond Lovers (the Naked Barbies for ten years previously) are fronted by Patty Speglanin who formed the band in 1990 because she loved music and wanted desperately to be in a real band. In 1996, they won the Whammie Award as the Bay Area's best Americana band. In 1998, the band was a finalist in the Levi's/Lilith Fair Emerging Talent Concert. Three albums were released by the band under their former monniker before Mattel insisted on a name change. You can still order their albums Dancing With Vacuums (1995) (here), Tarnished (1996) (here) and Living Independently (1998) (here). The forthcoming album by Vagabond Lovers scheduled for release on May 16, 2000 is entitled When I Was You (Monarch Records(USA) MONA-1023, 2000).

The new album is comprised of twelve richly arranged alternative vocal numbers, including a stunning cover of The Cars' "Drive" albeit arranged more lightly to better suit Patty's voice. It is a stunning track and an album highlight. She says, "we often pick covers that were originally sung by men because when a woman sings it, there's a different perspective, a different connotation." Patty has a tremendous voice with a richness, range, power and style certain to warm the hearts of most female vocal enthusiasts.

The album opens with "Junkie," a smooth tune written by song-writing friend Sarah Decker. "I think of myself as somewhere between Joni Mitchell and Linda Ronstadt," Patty reveals, "in the sense that I'm a songwriter but I also have a great appreciation for great songs. "Midnight Radio" is one of those great tracks, with a well-balanced guitar instrumental arrangement matched to the easy going light rock tune. "For Sale Sign" is vocally stronger and instrumentally lighter and the underlying musical theme is a cross between a ballad and a country tune. The pace picks up and the texture changes to be more jazzy in "Wonderful Thing." Here Patty's vocals are right out in front, well on top of the guitars, and the extent of her range becomes evident. The guitar solo that concludes the track is tremendous.

Not only did they happen upon the idea of "Drive" while hanging out with Austin producer Dave McNair in an Oakland bar but they were able to include a Siglanin favourite, "Him," written by former Green on Red member Chuck Prophet, who she encountered after one of his gigs. This is a bluesy ballad with vocals soaring way above the light instrumentation—easy to understand why it's one of Patty's faves. "Living Independently" and "A Thousand Different Reasons" are brighter songs, with heartfelt lead and harmony vocals; a mix of acoustic and electric guitar backing produces an almost country sounding tune.

A unique instrumental arrangement compliments the ballad "I Got Killed" which was reminscent of several of the themes from Evita. Jazz influences (principally on piano) are joined with rock in "Kitchen." The vocal excursions within the track are tremendous. The album concludes with "Division Street" a soft ballad with country influences, heartfelt lyrics, and light instrumentals and "You Make It Easy," a bluesy, vocally rich ballad.

The forthcoming release by Vagabond Lovers contains a wide variety of songs that illustrate the range of the band's talent and Patty Spiglanin's vocal abilities. For soundbites and further information also check out their mp3.com website. Certain to interest female vocal enthusiasts, the album is worth watching for in the coming months—a very nice listen!

 
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