My Brothers and I wrap tour in Spokane, Washington

Back on February 1, we told you about an amazing alt-pop band out of Portland, Oregon named My Brothers and I who were heading out for their first headlining tour.  This past Saturday, March 26, that tour concluded with a show at The Big Dipper in Spokane, Washington.

The venue was amazing.  Long a Spokane icon, the Big Dipper has been renovated and turned into a state of the art music venue with incredible sound and an even more incredible sound man named Jeff.  He made the night that much more memorable with his mastery of the board.

Thanks to the band’s publicist, Alex Steininger of In Music we Trust PR, an interview with the band was set up before the show.  I arrived at the venue early and helped the band load in and get set up for sound check.  The interview was conducted throughout that process, and will be published at a later date.

While all that was going on, the opening band, The BGP, arrived for their sound check.  Imagine my surprise to learn that the band’s founder and lead singer, Brandon Ghorley, was friends with, and had performed with, several of my LA musical peeps, including Keaton Simons, Tony Lucca, Aijia and Andy Grammer, and Clara C.

By the time the doors opened, there was a line around the building of fans anxious for the show.  Both bands took the time to talk to the fans and welcome them to the show.

The BGP took the stage first.  Upon encouragement from Ghorley, everyone left their comfortable seats and made their way to the floor in front of the stage, where they stood mesmerized during the entire performance.

Featuring music from their latest EP, Fort Knox, as well as covers of “Bennie and the Jets” and “What a Fool Believes,” the BGP rocked the joint like a lesser-known version of Maroon 5.  Ghorley’s stage presence was breathtaking to behold, as he seamlessly interacted with the audience while also entertaining them with his keyboard and vocal abilities.  His bandmates, Phil Hopper on guitar and keys and Josh Demorow on drums truly complemented his sound while making memorable moments of their own.

These guys are the real deal.  If you have a chance to catch their live show, don’t miss it.  Check out their website, follow them on Twitter and Instagram, and subscribe to their YouTube channel.

After a short break, My Brothers and I took the stage, while the audience joined them in front of the stage.  David, the youngest of the three Wurgler boys that make up 60% of the band, is the lead singer, while his older siblings Erik is on bass and Scott is on drums.  Childhood friends Jordan Roach on guitar and Johnny Iliyn on keys make up the rest of the band.

The band has begun to receive attention from their recently released CD Don’t Dream Alone, including a placement in last week’s Pretty Little Liars episode.  Over the course of an hour, the band brought to life every cut from that CD, as well as tease us with an upcoming song, “Tell Me,” which has its own interesting tale to tell.

David’s sultry vocals, coupled with the driving bass of Erik and the perfect beat of Scott made each song come alive.  Jordan’s guitar and John’s keys filled in the melody, creating the perfect blend of musical genius culminating in songs that had meaningful lyrics and a beat that made you want to stand up and dance.  Hearing the audience sing along was the icing on the cake of one of the best live performances I have ever experienced.

My Brothers and I are definitely for real.  I strongly recommend them, as well as the BGP, as bands to take notice of now before they skyrocket to the top of the charts.

 

Tamara Laurel is a ‘Runaway’ success

Country music is an American art form which has given birth to other great musical genres like rock and roll, Americana and roots.  Over the years it has also spawned a generation of female musical legends, like Loretta Lynn, Dolly Parton, Martina McBride, Reba and Taylor Swift.  You can now add to that legacy the amazing voice and music of Tamara Laurel.

Although her debut album Runaway was released a year ago, this writer was just recently introduced to this bright new future star, who has quietly been making a name for herself while flying under the radar.

We recently had the opportunity to talk to Laurel about her music and career.  Here’s what she had to say.

IV:  What is your musical background?

TL:  I grew up learning flute and violin in my elementary school band. I also learned about  musical backgrounds while doing arrangements for school musicals, which also taught me to love the essence of songwriting.  I never had any formal music education, although I did take a guitar course in college.  I simply fell in love with music.  I graduated with a business degree, moved to Dallas and began working for News Corp.

Even though I loved my job,  I just couldn’t quiet the desire to be an artist, so I quit working and became one.  I was writing songs at night and studying songwriting in Nashville, Dallas and Seattle.  I just really wanted to do this, so I moved to Los Angeles in 2011 and took classes at the University of Southern California.  I spent a full year trying to get over my fear of performing live, so I would head down to the Santa Monica Promenade after midnight when no one was there, and perform to the open sky.  I also ran the circuit of open mics.  My big break came when I won a contest sponsored by Live Nation to perform at a showcase at the Hollywood House of Blues.  I did about 20 more open mics to prepare for this showcase, starting in Malibu, and have never been nervous about performing live since.

IV:  Who are your musical inspirations?

TL:  Growing up it was Elton John and Bruce Springsteen – I loved the way they told stories with emotions, and  I loved their songwriting styles.  Some of my current favorites are Jason Isbell, Ray LaMontagne, Virgil Simpson, Grace Potter, Emmylou Harris and Allison Krause.

IV:  What else inspires you?

TL:  I’ve always been drawn to write about what evokes a strong emotional reaction, especially relationships.  I took the last year off to be alone and to figure myself out.  Lately it’s about travelling around the country and doing shows, about growing up, while learning a kind of stability about relying on yourself and being responsible.  It’s not just about a broken heart or the fun of being in early 20s.  I can talk to someone who tells me a story which leaves an impact that forms a song.

IV:  Tell us about your debut album.

TL:  Runaway was a product of a very difficult and interesting growing experience.  One day I decided that my life was not going the way i wanted it to and so I just picked up and left.

The first track,”Whiskey,” which was also my first single, is so fun to play live.  I’ve had a lot of exposure for that song.  I was doing two shows in Chicago, and the fans were singing most of the songs back to me.  The song captures that feeling of “I know this is bad for me, but I’m doing it anyway.”

The title track is my type of track – raw, emotional and painful to say – and it sums up the essence of album   It is a good description of what that year meant to me.

I am also now the official artist and spokesperson for Pikolino, a Mexican shoe company.  My first song “I Want You” was used in their  winter campaign about two years ago.  It’s been an incredible partnership.

IV:  What are your future plans?

TL:  I have completed writing my next album, and I’m looking for a new producer/  I’ve been touring, formed my own record label, and simply love making music and playing out.  I believe in the slow and steady build of a long career.  I’m spending time collaborating and working with Nashville writers – I simply love just being in the room when the magic happens.

IV:  Where can we find out more about you?

TL:  Check out my website and Facebook, follow me on Instagram and Twitter and subscribe to my YouTube and SoundCloud channels.

Corinne Cook is ‘Dressed Up for Goodbye’

Corinne Cook may not be familiar to you, yet, but with the power of her latest CD, Dressed Up for Goodbye, she soon will be.  With a voice reminiscent of early Faith Hill, and the sassiness of Kellie Pickler, Cook is making a name for herself in Music City.

The title of the album is ironic in that although it is full of songs about heartbreak and goodbye, it also serves to say hello to a dynamic new voice on the indie country music scene.  Cook has had some success from her earlier albums, including a #1 song (“Uninvited Guest”) and a #4 song (“I’m Not Shy”) on the Inside Country chart.  

Unlike when she recorded her first two albums and lived in California, Cook now resides in Music City.  As such, she had more time to spend on the entire process of writing and recording.  This also allowed her to choose and record songs that not only did she like but which also allowed her to share chapters of her life story.

 Another advantage to living in Nashville was the opportunity to work with its elite songwriters and studio musicians.  Among those elite are The Warren Brothers (Brett and Brad), who wrote or co-wrote six of the tracks, and her producer, Denny Martin, who co-wrote three more.  The final two tracks she found through the Song Matchmakers Network.  Of those two tracks, “I Don’t,” a powerful duet with Paul Scott, a former opera singer, is one of the best tracks on the album.  Other songs worthy of consideration include the title track, “Little Miss Understanding” and “Who.”

According to her official bio, Cook was born in Walnut Creek and raised in the Central California towns of Tracy and Escalon, surrounded by a family that was intensely musical.  According to Cook, she doesn’t “remember a time when I wasn’t singing.”  Her family had many jam sessions with her mom on guitar, her step-dad on bass and her brother using the chairs for drum while she sang.  Although initially too shy to perform in public, she overcame that shyness and began performing in choir from middle school on, as well as solo performances in high school.  Singing also became a part of her time in the Air Force where she served four years during the Gulf War.

After she was discharged, she returned to California where she began singing at festivals in Northern California while working part-time as a radio DJ for classic country station 93.9 “The Ranch” in Ripon.  “Ranch Hand Jane,” as she was known, also hosted karaoke for the station at various venues, and introduced legendary country artists like Charlie Daniels and Johnny Lee when they performed in town. 

Cook later moved to Mt. Juliet, a small town about 20 miles east of Nashville, so she could focus on developing her career as a singer.  She participated in local community theatre productions while also performing at various songwriter nights in the Nashville area.  “I definitely enjoy performing live,” she says, “but my absolute favorite part of being an artist is being in the studio, feeling the energy and feeding off the creativity of all of these great musicians. Performing my vocals on top of all that during the sessions for Dressed Up For Goodbye was exhilarating and I can’t wait to go back in and start my next project!” 

“The biggest difference between my earlier albums and Dressed Up For Goodbye is the fact that on those, I didn’t have the opportunity to choose the songs I wanted to record,” continued Cook.  “I was able to pick some songs that applied to my life but overall because of the circumstances of my recording deals, I was not able to really paint a full portrait of who I am.  My new album is a much more vibrant and personal expression.  These 11 new tunes all reflect different parts of my life, and many situations and scenarios that I have actually experienced, from the strength and confidence of the ‘don’t mess around with me’ vibe of “Little Miss Understanding” through the vulnerability and heartbreak of the title song.”

Cook is an artist who is definitely worth checking out, while her new CD should be enjoyed with an ice-cold beer or a shot of Jack.

For more about this artist, check out her website and Facebook pages, follow her on ReverbNationTwitter and Instagram, and subscribe to her Soundcloud account, where you can stream her latest CD.  Her music is also available for download on iTunes, Amazon Music and Google Play.

 

‘Hot ‘n’ Throbbing’ brings much needed message to Missoula

Domestic violence is an epidemic that has impacted our country in many ways.  According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, 1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men have experienced some form of physical violence by an intimate partner.  Intimate partner violence accounts for 15% of all violent crime.  In particular, 72% of all murder-suicides involve an intimate partner, and 92% of the time, the victim is female.

Playwright Paula Vogel has written a very powerful and moving play, Hot ‘n’ Throbbing, to bring these numbers to life.  Skillfully directed by Jillian Campana, and produced by the University of Montana School of Theatre & Dance in the Masquer Theatre, the show pulls out all the stops and presents these facts in an undeniable and unforgettable way that makes a lasting impression on the   Feataudience.

Working with Scenic Designer Mike Monsos, Costume Designer Bayne Tilton, Lighting Designer Megan Nishida and Audio Designer Cole Milligan, Campana has directed a masterpiece of theater that does what theater and art in general should do – shed light on a social issue.

The amazing cast features Jourdan Nokleby in the lead role of Charlene, living with her kids Calvin (Treyson Sherk) and Leslie Ann (Jenna Lockman), after leaving her husband Clyde (Kurtis Hassinger).  Charlene is a screenwriter of adult entertainment catered to women, and her screenplays are visualized and acted out in the form of two actors – Voice-Over (Alyssa Berdahl) and The Voice (Jake Bender).  This is a true ensemble cast, and every performer is worthy of recognition.

Without giving away the story, Charlene works hard to make a living for her family, while discovering the painful truth of trying to be an effective single parent to teenagers.  Her fateful mistake is allowing her drunken husband inside the house “to talk.”

Regardless of your stance on the issue of domestic violence, this play will give you something to think about, and this reviewer highly recommends it for its sheer power in storytelling.

The show continues at the University March 1-4 at 7:30 p.m. and on March 5 at 2 p.m.  Tickets are available at the UMArts Box Office or online at umt.edu/theatredance.