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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
Catherine Tuttle
Gåte
Viki Nova
Catie Curtis
Chantal Kreviazuk
Reneé Austin
Rory Block
Garrison Starr
Leslie Clemmons
Debra Alt
Jylt
Thea Gilmore

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Instrumental Digest
 
Peel CD Cover
Image © Cat's Paw Publishing 2003
Spider Monkey Records 2003
 
 

(21 March 2004) At 17 years old, bilingual Catherine Tuttle is a songwriter and singer with wonderful musical and vocal maturity. Her debut album, Peel (Spider Monkey Records (USA) CT 58125, 2003), is expressive and showcases her budding talent. She wrote her songs on piano and executed her own piano tracks as well. This young songstress can perform music from the pop/rock genre to that of the detailed and sensitive classical variety.

While she performs lead vocals and piano, she is supported by Jef Lee Johnson on guitar; Chico Huff on bass; Jeff Davis on drums; Doc Gibbs on percussion; Glenn Barratt on acoustic guitar; Thomas Petrosky,Jr. on organ; and background vocals by Lucie Daigle. Adding to the ambience, Ron Kerber arranged and conducted the strings.

There is an energy throughout, with a mellowness in tone and the feeling of experienced proficiency that usually comes with age. "There was always music around the house," according to Tuttle. At the tender age of 14, she was taking piano lessons and writing songs with music and lyrics.

From the very first track, "Restless," Tuttle captures you with her distinct musical aplomb. Her style is easy-going and nothing short of brilliant for a young, talented musician. Her lyrics are meaningful and her vocals soar in "Alone" and "What Will They Find." She certainly has exceptional skills and is a young vituoso.

Her piano and quicker pace melody in "Tell Me Something New" offers more diversity in her musical flair. Excellent acoustic guitar instrumentals lend to the total picture. "Kerosene" talks about grown-up life experiences that one wouldn't expect to hear from a teenager with only seventeen years of experience. "Vintage Heart" rocks from the start, grabs you and doesn't let go. Her clear-cut vocals stand out in this track. The sensitivity of her music continues throughout, and the album is a very passionate look inside this young woman. The final track, "Ange Tombe," is sung purely and exquisitely in French, highlighted by beautiful strings that make a definite emotional imprint on the listener.

The twelve tracks on the album reflect a breathtaking genius and great talent. "I know that music will be a definite part of my life. My life will have a soundtrack." There is no doubt that a brilliant career lies ahead for this gifted young woman. With such self-confidence and talent, it will be exciting to see what happens as she matures. She is certainly a shining star!--Audrey Elliot

 
Gåte Jygri CD Cover
Image © Warner Music Norway 2003

 Gunnhild Sundli (vocals)
Image © Warner Music Norway 2003
 

(21 March 2004) On a trip to Oslo in February 2004, we were introduced to the music of Gåte by Jacob Holm Lupo of progressive rock band White Willow. Gåte--their name describes a small Scandinavian riddle handed down from generation to generation--are a five-piece band hailing from Trondelag in mid-Norway. They revolve around the brother sister combination of Gunnhild (vocals, fiddle) and Sveinung (keyboards and fiddle) Sundli who arrive steeped in the folk music of the region. Realising that a combination of tradition folk performance and contemporary music might be viable, they recruited Magnus Bormark (guitar, synths), Gjermund Landro (bass and guitar) and Martin Langlic (drums) to bring their vision to life.

The resulting debut album, Jygri (Warner Music (Norway) 5050466-6973-2-5, 2003) has been an amazing success in the Scandinavian countries, selling over 40,000 copies and has won the band awards and considerable acclaim. The band's record company have understandably decided to focus on the Scandinavian countries in terms of release and promotion, but it is high time this band had a larger audience. The album presents a selection of traditional folk songs sung in Norwegian by Gunnhild who has an extraordinary voice--imagine Bjork with the girlishness removed and more power--combined with extraordinary arrangements and playing, fusing passionate fiddle-driven Celtic-style rock with electronica, dance beats progressive music and, principally, heavy rock.

The album opens with "Bendik og Arolilja," which has a folky keyboard and vocal intro, before kicking into a high-energy Celtic rock workout, driven by a winning fiddle riff and a catchy--almost yodelled--chorus. "Snale mi jente" opens with Gunnhild and Sveinung’s mother singing a folk tune, before developing into another throbbing rock tune dominated by fiddles and rasping, metallic guitars, with some progressive-style synth fighting for a place in the mix, with Gunnhild almost shouting over the dense arrangement. The melody of "Til Deg" broods over a quickly played acoustic guitar, before the bands kicks in with another hard rock tour de force. Instrumental "Springleik" combines fiddle-driven, danceable folk with electronic music in plausible fashion, before lifting into twin-fiddle heaven!

"Stengd dor" is a slow, yet sinister piece, disturbing vocals sung over a doom-laden piano figure, later taken up powerfully by the whole band. "Kara tu omn," a song with a simple melody originally written for children, again has a dance-style electronic introduction before building into a splendid guitar driven piece with orchestral synths adding to the drama. "Jyrgi" is more authentic, a brief acapella vocal from Gunnhild, while "Brurematrsj fra Jamtland," from Sweden, is an anthemic march which builds regally behind Gunnhild’s wordless, catchy refrain.

"Skromt" broods over picked electric guitar and electronic percussion, before guitar and fiddle take up a relatively gentle, melodic theme in one of the album’s slightly more complex pieces. "Inga Litimor" has a strong, folky melody, which breaks engagingly into a piece of dance electronica, providing an interesting prelude to the standout track on the album, the remarkable, 9-minute, "Margit Hjukse." Atmospheric noises lead immediately into a huge heavy rock riff battling with swirling synth for supremacy, before breaking into the vocal verse accompanied only by accordion style keyboards and cymbals. Gradually, the band comes back in leading again into the riff, while the second verse is busier, before a tense final verse gradually builds in intensity before breaking into that great final riff. This is played just once on its own before the band kick in with a huge ending, with Gunnhild singing her heart out. The album says farewell with the gentle, melodic, keyboard-dominated "Solbonn."

The reviewed copy also includes a four-track bonus CD, featuring the excellent, typical "Statt opp," an acapella version of "Til Deg," a superb live "Bendik og Arolilja" and a demo of the live favourite "Litle Fuglen."

This is an intense, rewarding listening experience. Gunnhild’s voice, though possibly an acquired taste, will delight many, while the accessible, imaginative, brilliantly played music rocks very hard but has enough moments of invention to make keep many progressive rock fans happy. With its vocals re-recorded in English, there is no reason why this band shouldn’t develop a healthy indie / hard rock following all over the world while "Bendik og Arolilja," already a single in Norway, is so good it could easily chart abroad.

The band are currently working on their new album, and it will be interesting to hear whether they stick with traditional--albeit transformed--tunes, or develop their own material in a similar vein. We wait with interest.--Stephen Lambe

 
Catch Me If You Can CD Cover
Image © Viki Nova
Think For Yourself Records 2003
 
 

(21 March 2004) Hungarian-born singer/songwriter Viki Nova is multi-talented, having recently written and released her debut album, Catch Me If You Can (Think For Yourself Records (USA) TFY-5388, 2003) on her own label. Apparently, the album was recorded in seven days in Falls Church, Virginia. It was produced and mixed by Rich Isaac, also known for working with SR-71 and Marvelous 3. This pop/rock artist skillfully displays her talent with her clear vocals, awesome guitar, and sometimes insightful lyrics.

"This album has the full rock band sound I’ve always wanted and was hearing in my head when I wrote these songs," according to Nova. Out of the ten tracks, some standout songs include "Nothing Changes," "Die Another Day," "At All Cost," "I'm Yours(Catch Me If You Can)," and her closing track, "Take Me." While Nova has written great melodies and has some cracking vocals, some of the songs seem to replicate themselves. The song with the most diversity in her repertoire, showcasing her outstanding ability is "If You Didn't Need Me." The poignant lyrics, soaring and soulful vocals as well as the exceptional rock sound make this song a highlight.

The album is a great first effort by Nova. She is able to demonstrate some of her versatility, and her energy is certainly felt by the listener. Check out the soundbites and additional photos on Viki's website. She certainly has an upbeat vocal and sensitive lyrical style, and more great songs are earnestly awaited by this empowered female pop/rock performer.--Audrey Elliot

 
Dreaming In Romance Languages CD Cover
Image © Vanguard Records 2004 
 

(21 March 2004) Boston-based folk-pop singer/songwriter Catie Curtis is back again with her new album, Dreaming in Romance Languages (Vanguard Records (USA) 2004). Likened to Sarah McLachlan, Curtis has a strong and gritty sound that distinguishes her from the crowd. Her songs have received substantial airplay exposure on shows such as Dawson's Creek and Chicago Hope. She has a devout fan base and her career seems to keep growing in a positive direction.

The eleven tracks continue to display her sensitive lyrics and folksy/pop melodies. The New Yorker has dubbed Curtis as a "folk-rock goddess" and that phrase describes her music aptly. "Saint Lucy" opens with a rocky sound, and Curtis'decisive vocals keep the interest. "Deliver Me," with its mellow guitar accompaniment, is a lyrically moving melody. Her distinguishable voice softly and soulfully approaches "Hold On," which tends to have a folk and sometimes country feel.

"The Night" is a deep, rich and insightful song, with poignant singing. Curtis demonstrates her range and sensitivity with this beautiful rendition. The pace changes again with the more upbeat "It's the Way You Are" and "The Trouble You Bring."

"Cross Over to Me" is another passionate tune with thoughtful words. Lovely guitar instrumentals complement "Life Goes On." The tunes start swinging again with "Red Light" and is playful melody. "Doctor" and "Dark Weather" finish out the album in the same fine style that has been displayed throughout.

Curtis is certainly a talented singer and songwriter. She shows sensitivity in her beautiful lyrics and passion in her musical performance. Read further reviews, listen to soundbites and order the album from amazon.com here. Learn more about the artist at her website. Dreaming in Romance Languages is an album that is heartfelt and rich in addition to showcasing her exceptional talent.--Audrey Elliot

 
What If It All Means Something CD Cover
Image © Columbia Records 2003

Chantal Kreviazuk
Image © Columbia Records 2003
 

(11 March 2003) Chantal Kreviazuk's third album What If It All Means Something (Columbia Records (USA) CK 086482, 2003) is an ten plus one bonus track collection that was initially released in Canada on the parent label to critical acclaim during 2002. The album has drawn significant attention from media in the run up to its USA release on April 23, 2003.

What If It All Means Something showcases the emotional terrain of someone who not only feels deeply but has the guts to explore those feelings and the talent to articulate them. With her sometimes delicate, sometimes dramatic soprano, Chantal delivers the richly arranged piano ballads she's best known for while charting new musical courses, trusting her inner vission to lead the way. Wher "In This Life" is an ode to unconditional devotion, "Julia" and "Miss April" take on the ironies of celebrity. "Weight of the World" is a giddy adieu to burdens and baggage. The passionate "Time" embraces a seize-the-moment those while the offbeat, Asian-accented "Ready for Your Love" reveals in complete surrender.

Certain album standouts are the two tracks that open the album. "In This Life" and the title track that follows are upbeat, pop-oriented rocking ballads with Kreviazukian-styled piano- and guitar-based arrangements. Aching solo vocals in the verses are perfectly contrasted by lush harmony layers in the choruses. "Weight Of The World" is equally outstanding. Delightful.

Chantal is classically trained on piano up through her college years. She began writing in earnest while recuperating from an accident. Some of the songs that came alive during that period wound up on Under These Rocks and Stones, her 1997 debut. Her second release Colour Moving and Still brought the artist Best Female Artist and Best Pop/Adult Album at the 2000 Juno Awards.

Perhaps the most personally delightful new direction Chantal took in creating What If It All Means Something was to collaborate with her husband, Raine Maida (frontman for Our Lady Peace). "It happened really naturally but very prolifically--we just banged them out," Chantal says. "We weren't even like, 'Let's site doan and write a song.' We'd just be jamming and things would pop out." Unfortunately, not every song has such joyous roots. "'Flying Home' is about my cousin who died suddenly last year," Chantal reveals. "She was like a sister and my best friend--I wrote the song on the plan, going to her funeral." The poignant track, "In This Life," is about seeing the potential and beauty in a person and accepting them for who they are, and saying you will be there no matter what."

To balance the complexities of her nature, Chantal sought to keep her sound pure and pristing finding the ideal producer in Gregg Wattenberg (Five for Fighting). With What If It All Means Something, Chantal Kreviazuk comes fully into her own, inviting her listeners--both longtime fans and intrigued newcomers--to experience the world as she sees it. "I think it's the kind of record you put on at the end of the evening and you're part of it. it evokes something in you," she says. "People do different things do different types of music. I hope that mine is the kind of music that you feel to."

Read further reviews, listen to soundbites and order the album from amazon.com here. Clearly worth a trans-Atlantic journey, this album is a must listen!

 
Sweet Talk CD Cover
Image © Blind Pig Records 2003 
 

(21 March 2004) Like a hurricane churning up the Atlantic coast, newcomer Reneé Austin has emerged onto the blues scene like a storm surge. Her debut recording, Sweet Talk (Blind Pig Records (USA) BPCD 5087, 2003), has created quite a buzz within the music industry, receiving plenty of positive feedback from blues enthusiasts across the country. Austin delivers a high powered, high voltage performance from start to finish. Like a stick of dynamite, her vocal strength explodes right from the very first note, practically taking your breath away.

This California-born artist, was raised in Austin, Texas at an early age, and eventually moved north to Minnesota, where her music career first began. Quickly becoming a fan favorite of the Twin Cities indie scene, she swept the Minnesota Music Academy (MMA) honors with an independent release, Dancin' With Mr. Blue, taking home best blues album, best blues singer and best female vocalist awards. The folks at Blind Pig Records wasted no time signing Austin, recognizing her full potential as a talented singer/songwriter.

Sweet Talk contains eleven tracks, traveling across a multitude of blues formats, from gospel, country and soul, to boogie, honky tonk and jazz. Seven of these are original songs penned by the artist, sharing personal stories about love, both lost and found. Her Texas roots haven't been ignored and can easily be heard throughout this latest effort. What immediately stands out on Sweet Talk, is Austin's dynamic vocal range and emotional intensity. She sings from a place deep within her soul, grabbing your full attention and never letting go.

Sweet Talk starts off with a bang, right from the opening track, "Not Alone." This hard driving blues tune, highlights some great harp work by Joe Cook, as Austin belts out a gritty vocal performance, that will keep your toes tappin'. The following track "Pretend We Never Met" is an enjoyable duet with veteran blues icon, Delbert McClinton. Both artists compliment each other to perfection on this country flavored R&B tune. Their duet sounding very natural, as though they've collaborated together on numerous occasions. The tempo dramatically changes on, "Pour The Sugar Slowly," a sexy, sassy funk tune, with a great call and response exchange between Austin's sultry voice and lead guitarist Kevin Bowe.

The following track finds Austin exercising the gospel influence of her youth on "Bottom Of A Heart." This high spirited tune, would motivate any congregation to jump to their feet. "Fool Moon" is a pleasant change of pace, allowing Austin to stretch out vocally on this jazz flavored tune. "Bury The Hatchet," disguises itself as a slow shuffle, then suddenly detonates into a smokin' roadhouse blues number. "Unraveling" is a stunning example of Austin's vocal artistry on this contemporary blues track. She applies her incredible range with a rich balance of emotional accents, as Dave Jensen sizzles in the background on trumpet.

As if saving the best for last, the final two tracks on Sweet Talk, is a showcase of Austin at her finest. Both tunes are stripped down to the basics without all the bells and whistles. She absolutely shines on, "Ain't Nobody," a honky tonk tune highlighting the expressive sincerity of her voice, with Bruce McCabe tickling the ivories. "Black Pearl" is a swampy, sultry, delta blues tune, finding Austin articulating this style with complete authority.

Sweet Talk is an impressive collection of blues music with plenty of punch. Austin's energetic performance and vocal application can dominate any musical format put in front of her. My only concern with this new release are the numerous blues styles being presented. Many sound very similar in strength and intensity, at times distorting the specific style and its message. Time and experience will certainly mold Austin comfortably into this genre, taming her vocal prowess to legendary status.

There's nothing pretentious about this young artist, her new CD is pure heart and soul. Austin's talent is a force to be reckoned with, this new recording is sending a message, telling everyone she's here to stay. Read further reviews, listen to soundbites and order the album from amazon.com here. Sweet Talk is definitely worth your time and attention, a CD you'll listen to again and again.--Pamela Dow

 
Last Fair Deal CD Cover
Image © Telarc International 2003

More Rory Block

Interview and Concert Review

 

(24 February 2004) As we officially recognize 2003 as the "Year Of The Blues", veteran artist Rory Block has devoted an entire career, celebrating the deep roots and rich history of this treasured genre. Her latest release, Last Fair Deal (Telarc (USA) CD-83593, 2003), is a true testament to the artist's personal dedication in keeping the traditional blues sound alive and vibrant for future generations. With a distinctive collection of highly acclaimed recordings, this latest effort is her debut on the Telarc label. Last Fair Deal is a showcase of traditional country blues, gospel standards and personal arrangements, stretching Block's creative boundaries. In the liner notes, she describes this new CD as a personal celebration for her beloved instrument and best friend, her guitar. The growth of this relationship has developed into a true extension of the artist herself. Block refers to her guitar as an "orchestra all on its own", a point successfully proven throughout the recording.

Last Fair Deal is a brilliant piece of work, containing fourteen songs highlighting the artists passionate vocals, stinging slide technique and instinctual interpretation of the genre's origins. The opening track, "Gone Again" is a hard driving, high energy tune, illustrating Block's masterful guitar genius, even showing her playful side. It begins with the roar of a Harley, as she punctuates a rhythmic response, keeping pace with the engine. As the bike trails off in the distance, her slide mirrors the open road, traveling across the fretboard while enjoying the ride. The following track, "Sookie Sookie" is a slower slide piece. This soulful blues tune tells the story of a cheating husband and the turmoil caused. The aggressive slide work expresses the overall anger and frustration, while she vocally conveys the painful heartache. Next, Block honors both her musical roots and long time mentor Son House with an authentic presentation of "County Farm Blues". She embellishes upon the delta style with such natural ease, delivering a gutsy, acoustic performance. Her emphasis remains loyal to the traditional feel, surely making the master quite proud. Two tracks also pay tribute to Robert Johnson, "Last Fair Deal Gone Down" and "Traveling Riverside Blues". Block rips into some raw, deliberate blues work. Plenty of hard driving rhythm and blistering slide, without overshadowing her distinctive vocal accents. All three tracks are pure passion and dazzling proficiency, an excellent display of this blues guitar virtuoso at her finest.

Last Fair Deal is a complete package, as the artist explores several areas of the blues genre. She ventures into a wealth of creative imagery on "Amazing Grace" and "Awesome Love", two instrumentals which sparkle with spontaneity. Each track shines with long tonal expressions, resonating inner beauty with intense emotion. Both these tracks sound improvised at times, yet very deliberate at others, as each carries a warm glow from start to finish. There's also a spiritual presence on this new CD, as Block exercises her gospel muscle. On "Declare", both vocals and slide testify simultaneously, with Block sounding like a preacher at a Sunday morning service. The choir articulates a bright, uplifting sound with their "call and response" style, helping to drive home the message. "Look What The Lord Has Done" is another strong spiritual track with plenty of gospel and country blues overtones, celebrating the power of the Lord. Block also covers a more folk type blues on "Mama' Stray Baby" and "Two Places At A Table". Both tracks are very introspective, as the artist shares on a very personal level. She reaches into the emotional well about love and loss almost too difficult to describe. Block opens the door just wide enough for the listener to feel her joy and sorrow, tenderness and heartache, told poignantly through the clarity of her voice and the strings of her guitar.

Last Fair Deal is a wondrous blend of musical color, vivid as a rainbow after a thunderstorm. Each track, with its own unique style and sound, is blended together creating an amazing masterpiece. This new CD finds Block returning home to the blues, honoring its tradition and venturing into its future. Read further reviews, listen to soundbites and order the album from amazon.com here. The depth of emotion and artistic creativity on this new recording will have both her fans and the folks at Telarc wanting for more. Block has definitely hit this one out of the park, most certainly an impressive example of what's yet to come.--Pamela L. Dow

 
Airstreams & Satellites CD Cover
Image © Vanguard Records 2004 
 

(21 March 2004) Mississippi born singer, Garrison Starr, recently released her third album, Airstreams & Satellites (Vanguard Records (USA) 79752-2, 2004). "For me, music has always been about making a connection. I've found so much support and inspiration through other people's music--I just hope my songs have something special to say to somebody out there," says the singer. There is no doubt that there is a connection here and everybody is listening.

Starr acts as lyricist and singer, and reaches the heights. The album springs forth with pop/rock melodies and lilting vocals. She has a powerful voice that evokes some attitude through her lyrics. She opens with "Gasoline," with its country feel, and moves to the gentler "Sing." Her vocals soar in this song with a clarity and progression to a sparkling soprano in her material. "Hey Girl" continues with its pop sound and beautiful melodies accompanied by excellent guitar work.

Another highlight on this album is "Superhero" with its defined rock sound. Starr embraces the music with a passion and grabs the listener with her spectacular musical performance. "Underneath the Wheel" again draws attention to the clearness of her soaring vocals. Starr opens up her emotional vulnerability in "Wonderful Thing" talking about hating love, but "it's a wonderful thing when it's happening."

Guitars again shine in "Like a Drug" with excellent percussion and fantastic vocals. Other musicians contributing their expertise are Curt Schneider on bass; Matt Lang on drums/percussion; Janet Robin on electric guitars; Bruce Watson on guitars, lap steel and mandolin; Dan Potruch on additional drums; Gary Beare on additional bass and guitar; Neilson Hubbard on mellotron and acoustic guitars as well as background vocals; Andrew Williams on guitars, strings and wurlitzer; and Cynthia Cathania with backgroung vocals.

The final song, "Airstreams and Satellites," continues with an honesty in style. Starr said, "I figure if I'm not inspiring people through my writing or performing, there's really no point in doing it." Well, Starr has the whole package - espressive lyricist, talented musician and great singer - that moves her to the forefront of her craft. There is a bittersweet edge to her music that complements her beautiful voice.

Read further reviews, listen to soundbites and order the album from amazon.com here. Learn more about the artist at her website. Airstreams & Satellites is an exciting album--watch this space.--Audrey Elliot

 
Stop This World CD Cover
Image © Verdict Records 2003/2004
Poetic Noise Music, BMI 2003/2004
 
 

(21 March 2004) Stop The World is the pop/rock debut album for New Orleans born indie artist Leslie Clemmons. All the songs were written by Clemmons and her husband/producer, Rod, except for the Carole King song, "So Far Away." The album has a diversity that sometimes reflects pop, rock, jazz, soul and hip-hop in the music. "I studied classical voice techniques as well as musical theatre techniques and pop techniques. I wanted to use my voice like an instrument so I could serve any song I wanted to with it."

Her style is rhythmically energizing and crisp, starting out with the first track, "Duplicity." The sensitive lyrics and strong musical style continue with the title track, "Stop The World." Clemmons has an easy-going vocal style that is quite versatile. She displays passion and emotion in her lyrics and melodies. "Interpret the Sky" reflects on the images and concerns in today's world, and develops melodically with the background vocals and instrumentals.

"Lie in Your Arms" has a fast paced rhythm and a clarity in the vocals. In contrast, a favorite track "I Love You More" (co-written by Elliott Thomas) is a tender, emotional song where the sensitive quality of Clemmons' technique comes across displaying her musical versatility. A similar quality is found in the subsequent track, "Misery Loves Company," along with some powerful vocals.

"The Blind Lead the Blind" has a catchy tune, and her interpretation of Carole King's "So Far Away" is a highlight and Clemmons puts her personal touch on the classic. The remaining tracks, ending with the beautifully sung a capella in "Teresa Street," continue in the same vein of down-to-earth, passionate and emotional music.

Clemmons has a winning combination of expressive lyrics and gorgeous vocals that lend to a refreshing new talent in our midst. Read further reviews, listen to soundbites and order the album from amazon.com here. Learn more about the artist at her website. There is a lot of originality in her music as well as diversity and strength in her singing and songwriting. The album leaves you begging for more.--Audrey Elliot

 
A Spirited Mother CD Cover
Image © Servethrusong, LLC 2003 
 

(21 March 2004) Debra Alt has created a mellow, gentle set of lyrics and melodies in A Spirited Mother (Debrasong Music (USA) DS 3983, 2003). "It was created to be a work of lush beauty to soothe, inspire and celebrate the fact that the best interests of our children are only served when we are true to ourselves," says the artist. Languid tones in soft rock ballads create a peaceful atmosphere with lovely vocals and beautiful harmonies.

Soaring and clear vocals abound throughout this album. This artist has taken her life experiences and transformed them gracefully into messages to teach a lesson. "Teach You to Fly" is a lesson to her daughter about being true to herself while "Moving On" describes the end of her marriage. "One Heart at a Time" has flowing melodies and poignant vocals that tug at the emotions. There seems to be a warmth and honestly in her music, with sometimes folksy and soft rock interludes.

Each song seems woven into the next, creating a tapestry of straightforward harmonies. The ballad, "Just Your Way," exhibits a gentleness with the aid of background vocals by Nicole Freschette, Mickey DiMichele and Paul Scialabba; Richie Volza on keyboards/piano; John Morello on drums; Mickey DiMichelle on bass; Mario DiMichelle on guitar; and Barbara Wiggin on viola.

Most of the songs on the album were written by Alt. One exception was "Love Will Come to You" written by Emily Saliers with its catchy tune and mandolin riffs by Paul Scialabba and percussion by Wil Guadalupe. The sophistication of her music continues with clarity of vocals. "Never Never Land" lends itself to a jazzy feel with the saxophone stylings of Fred Scerbo.

Each song continues with a story or lesson of life's experiences. Notably, the exquisite song, "Born of Light" was written for the Children's Place at Home Safe, a shelter for abused and neglected children. The album ends with "Road to Zion," written by Mike Hudson, a prayer-like song that expresses the gentleness and intended spirit of the album, "you shall be a blessing."

The original lush tunes and gorgeous vocals make this CD a standout. Alt has an engaging style intertwining soft rock ballads, jazz and classical elements to create an aura of peacefulness in her music. There is a genuine and inspired feeling of sophistication throughout and leaves you smiling.--Audrey Elliot

 
Jylt Surrender CD Cover
Image © Uglyman Music 2002

Jylt
Sarah Howells (vocals)
Image © Uglyman Music 2003
 

(11 March 2003) Jylt are by no means a new band nor have the band members ever had to put themselves through soul rendering auditions along with millions of other teenage wannabes. In fact they are probably as far away from the average young pop-group image as you can get. Jylt offer a powerful brand of intelligent rock, fuelled by ten years of experience together.

Jylt are Sarah Howells (vocals and guitar), Alex Cooper (guitar), Tim Ramsey (drums) and Nia George (bass). The 3-track single "Surrender" (Uglyman Music (UK), 2003) includes the title and two additional songs. Sarah's vocals vary between an Andrea Coor (The Corrs) and Jasmine Rodgers (Boa) style, depending on the track. The single was produced by Tim Wills.

"Surrender" is an upbeat rock track with lush guitars contrasted by evocative solo and rich harmony vocal layers. "Treading Water" recorded live at BBC Wales is an edgy alternative style track. Heartfelt vocal verses are contrasted by heavier style guitar-laden choruses with Sarah's emotive vocals rising above the instrumentals. This track is most representative of the Boa (review) sound. "Life Like A Dream" is a delightful, shimmering and sensitively sung ballad that serves to show the softer side of the band. Evocatively performed, it is delightful. We long for more.

The band began when Sarah and Nia were not much older than ten years old, compositing songs to keep themselves out of trouble. They soon spotted and approached Alex, a guitarist in their music class to come and join them, who promptly suggested his jamming partner and drummer Tim, should come and complete the band. So there they were - several name and image changes away from the Jylt we know today, but the band was born, and all in the West Wales town of Milford Haven.

Through constand gigging, Jylt's reputation soon grew on the local scene. Student 123 gave the band their first opportunity for (UK) national exposure. Hylt were voted and hailed as the top unsigned act on the Student123.com CD, which went out to over 100,000 students across the UK. A parallel promotional tour of the universities followed, sponsored by Student123 themselves. An immense new fanbase soon developed and with the money generated from the tour the band soon went into the studio.

The result, the single "Anon" gave the band their first taste of national rado, when Steve Lamacq picked up the Jylt baton from his session in Wales Colleges and tipped the band as Wales's new "Rock Talent"! At the same time, and with all this activity going on, Jylt were also named as BURBs Artist of the Month. Just prior to the band performing at Glasdonbury, Leeds based Uglyman music made the band to release their first single. Glasdonbury was a memorable time for the band, after going down well backstage, Jylt were the only band to play a total of seven gigs at the 2002 festival!

Read further reviews and obtain further information on the Jylt website. This band is certain to go the distance. Stay tuned to Musical Discoveries for further details.

 
Avalanche CD Cover
Image © Hungry Dog Records 2003

Songs From The Gutter CD Cover
Image © Flying Sparks Records 2002

Rules For Jokers CD Cover
Image © Flying Sparks Records 2001

Thea Gilmore
Thea Gilmore
Image © Stephen Lambe 2004

Thea Gilmore
Thea Gilmore
Image © Stephen Lambe 2004

Thea and Jim
Thea and Jim
Image © Stephen Lambe 2004

 

(16 January 2004) Born in Oxfordshire, British singer-songwriter Thea Gilmore has attracted considerable attention to herself over the last few years in the UK music media with her brand of witty, acidic folk-rock songs. Clearly from the same school of writing as Bob Dylan and Tom Waits, it is her lyric writing, examining the seamier side of relationships and political complacency with equal venom.

Avalanche. Though each of the three albums covered here have their moments musically, it is her latest album Avalanche (Hungry Dog Records (UK) YRGNUHA1, 2003) that has thrust her into the top 40 racks, and deservedly so, as it marks a move away from the relatively specialised folk-rock of her earlier releases into something more varied and commercial, without losing any of her wit or punch lyrically. Her other major asset is her voice, natural-sounding and pure with more than a touch of velvet. She also manages to sing in an English accent much of the time without it sounding too mannered.

Avalanche kicks off well with the treated drums and insistent guitars of "Rags and Bones." "Have you heard" slows things down with Robbie McIntosh's guitar wailing over an acidic lyric. The catchy "Juliet" with its retro male backing vocals is the first suggestion of a newly commercial approach. "Avalanche," however, with it's treated guitar and vocals is pure Tori Amos, but none the worse for it, before a haunting keyboard and cello riff takes the song over. "Mainstream" rocks things up in angry Bob Dylan style with another great chorus while the lovely ballad "Pirate Moon" is an utter delight.

"Apparition 13" hypnotises with an insistent vocal and keyboard melodies, while "Razor Valentine" swings edgily like Tom Waits played at 45 rpm. "God Knows" is a purer piece, giving Thea's voice the chance to do something pure and folky, over a percussive backing, while "Heads Will Roll" rocks things up in a bluesy stomp. The ethereal "Indian Summer" is another wonderful song, and "The Crack” provides an acoustic, melancholic album closer.

This is a wonderful collection of songs--funny, sad and angry. Musically, it provides some of Thea's most delightful melodies and her musicians provide some inventive instrumentation to bring the songs to life. This is certainly her most mature and varied album.

Songs From The Gutter. Not that there is much wrong with the quickly recorded Songs From the Gutter (Sparks Records (UK) TDBCD066, 2002). However, the songs have a rather more rough-hewn quality and the arrangements are less sophisticated, relying on a very live-sounding, straight-ahead rock approach that may well appeal more to some listeners.

"Down to No-where" opens with a cute synth riff, before growing into a slide-guitar dominated sing-a-long, while "When did you get so safe" is a rocky stomp. "Tear it all down" continues the up-tempo mood in melodic style. "The dirt is your lover now" is slower and moodier, while "I dreamed I saw St. Augustine" has a gentle ethereal quality. Several songs on this album sound like REM, and "Lip Reading" is one, while "Heart String Blues" sounds like Springsteen in the verse, before a surging chorus. "Mud on my Shoes" is a piece of fun bluegrass, recorded live by the sound of it, while the acoustic "Water in the Sky" and the relaxing "And we’ll dance" complete the album.

While not having the depth or variation of Avalanche, this brief collection of ten songs is still an excellent introduction to Thea’s work. The copy reviewed also comes with an excellent 11-track bonus CD, showcasing earlier rare and unreleased work. It certainly keeps up the standard of the main albums, especially the rocky opener "Hydrogen," the up-tempo "Red Farm" and the hypnotic folk ballad "December in New York." "Gun Cotton" is as close as Thea will get to heavy rock, and she handles it impressively, while "Don’t Set Foot over the Railway Track" is an intriguing excursion into spoken word territory. "Lavender Cowgirl" sounds like Aimee Mann at her quirkiest, and "Straight Lines" is an impressive final ballad.

Rules for Jokers. Back another year for a brief word about Rules for Jokers (Flying Sparks Records (UK) TDBCD056, 2001). As with her two most recent offerings, this album is produced by Nigel Stonier, and it relies either on a basic acoustic folk or blues-rock instrumentation to illuminate Thea’s songs. As a result, the album's thirteen tracks sound a little one-dimensional. In addition, some of the songs themselves don't seem to quite as good as her latter two albums. Nonetheless, the lyrics are as strong--and acidic--as ever, especially on the gentle "The Things We Never Said," while "Seen it all before" rocks impressively. "Benzedrine" again shows similarities with Aimee Mann, as well as featuring some excellent rock cello.

Those delving into Thea's work for the first time should probably start with Avalanche, as it is superior in both its song-writing and its instrumentation, but whichever album you choose, this is an artist improving with every album. Try her out.--Stephen Lambe

(04 July 2004) Acoustic Band Live at the Pillar Room, Cheltenham Town Hall, 03 July 2004. Considering the international success of her breakthrough album Avalanche, it was a particular delight to see Thea in such an intimate setting as the charming Pillar Room in the lovely town hall building, as part of Spa town Cheltenham’s fringe festival. Though on recent albums she has used a variety of instruments to illustrate her songs, from rock guitar to electronics, acoustic renditions of many of her pieces seem perfectly natural.

As a result, this was a relaxed and effective evening with her band--producer and multi-instrumentalist Nigel Stonier (acoustic bass, acoustic guitar, piano, harmonical, melodical, vocals), and talented young blues player Jim Kirkpatrick (acoustic guitar, acoustic bass, dobro, vocals) swapping instruments--not to mention jokes--with ease and dexterity. Thea herself seemed to be at ease and to be having fun. Her warm, expressive voice was in fine form, note perfect, in fact and she introduced many of her songs with a customary --and very English--self-depreciating wit. Despite the acidity of many of her songs, so came across as charming and funny.

The set was made up of about half of her wonderful Avalanche album, some good older material, a couple of brand new songs and a few wittily chosen covers. Up-tempo songs like "Rags and Bones" and "Have You Heard" contrasted beautifully with the gentle "God Knows" with Thea tackling a grand piano slightly nervously. Other highlights included the love song (with an edge) "Razor Valentine" and her two splendid singles "Mainstream" and "Juliet" (a minor UK hit) played back to back towards the end of her 80-minute performance.

Playing bass at the beginning of the set, Nigel showed what a talented multi-instrumentalist he is with some fine acoustic guitar and piano later on, as well as some well-placed harmony vocals, while Jim excelled with some splendid slide work. The covers are particularly worthy of note. "Bad Moon Rising" sounded for all the world like a Thea original, as did the Paula Abdul hit "Straight Up" given the deadpan Thea treatment, and, as a first encore, a charming "The Lady is a Tramp."

This was all memorable stuff, generously received by a small but appreciative audience. Not only did it whet the appetite for seeing her in a full electric band setting, but it superbly illustrated the quality of her remarkable song writing, and sent us back to listen to her albums with renewed interest.--Stephen Lambe

 
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