Tag Archives: blues

Get it or forget it – Halo Circus, Brody Buster’s One Man Band, Laura Tate

We are firmly ensconced in May, and the amazing indie music just keeps coming.  This year’s LA Music Critic Awards are gonna be tough because there is so much talent out there.  We are happy to present another three album reviews for you as we help you sort through the myriad of offerings available in indie music land.

Artist NameHalo Circus

Album NameThe East Lansing Sessions

Label:  Halo Circus Propaganda

Genre:  Alternative Rock

Track Listing:  1.  Nothing at All; 2.  All I Have; 3.  Band-Aid; 4.  Stand Up; 5.  The Needle and the Damage Done 

Publicist:  Platform Media Group

Review:  Allison Iraheta burst onto the music scene as a teenager when she appeared on the eighth season of American Idol in 2009.  She has since married and started a band with Matthew Hager and is on course to totally redefine indie rock and how indie music is made in today’s music business.  The band launched the first fully crowd funded headlining tour last year, which proved to be a very successful venture.  While on the tour, Halo Circus recorded this EP, which will be released on May 5.  It is an amazing work of art.  All five songs are incredible and worthy of radio air play, but we are especially impressed by the amazing “Band-Aid,” which features music by Halo Circus and lyrics by the one and only Paul Williams.  We shared their music video of this song earlier this week in our Monday Mashup article, and are proud of the work the band has done on this EP, which has definitely whetted our appetite for more.  We also love the simple undertones of the final track, “The Needle and the Damage Done,” which shows how diverse this band’s music can be.  We can’t wait for more.

Recommendation:  There is no doubt about this one – The East Lansing Sessions is a definite Get It and easily one of the best EPs of 2017.  We strongly recommend you visit their website and pre-order the EP, which comes in a myriad of packages including t-shirts, autographs and all manner of other swag.  This is how the music business should be done.

Artist NameBrody Buster’s One Man Band

Album Name:  Self-titled

Label:  Little Class Records

Genre:  Blues

Track Listing:  1.  Get out of my Life; 2.  New Speedway Boogie; 3.  I’m on Fire; 4.  2029; 5.  Into the Wind; 6.  Get Back; 7.  Nothing Compares 2 U 

Publicist:  Doug Deutsch Publicity Services

Review:  Brody Buster’s music is nostalgic, transporting the listener back to a simpler time when Vaudeville ruled the entertainment land.  His “One Man Band” gives us a taste of his awesomeness, displaying his multi-instrumentality and his diverse talents.  He has that scruffy voice you expect in blues music, and that driving blues riff on his guitar.  But what truly sets Buster apart is his harmonica, which rises above everything else and gives his music a lift.  Blues music is traditionally dark and brooding, but the harmonica makes the statement that ‘this darkness has got to give.”  With a combination of original tunes and some amazing covers, including The Grateful Dead’s “New Speedway Boogie,” Bruce Springsteen’s “I’m on Fire,” the Beatles’ “Get Back,” and Prince’s “Nothing Compares 2 U,” Brody redefines blues music and shows us the true essence of indie music – no boundaries.  Of his originals, we really love “2029,” with its driving beat and prophetic words of impending doom on September 23, 2029.

Recommendation:  Do yourself a favor and grab a copy of this amazing album.  Even if you don’t like the blues, you will love Brody Buster’s One Man Band.  We are proud to recommend this album and encourage you to Get it.

Artist NameLaura Tate

Album NameLet’s Just be Real

Label:  811 Gold Records

Genre:  Blues

Track Listing:  1.  Nobody Gets Hurt; 2.  If That Ain’t Love; 3.  Hitting on Nothing; 4.  Can’t say No; 5.  Boys are Back in Town; 6.  Still got the Blues; 7.  I’ll Find Someone who Will; 8.  Let’s Just be Real; 9.  I Know you Lie; 10.  I Need a Man; 11.  Big top Hat; 12.  Wildest Dreams 

Publicist:  Frank Roszak Promotions

Review:  While the blues are usually a dark form of music, Laura Tate’s music is anything but.  While the undertone is definitely the blues, it is married with an upbeat jazz tone and soaring vocals, accompanied by brilliantly hopeful lyrics about love, and guitar riffs that chase away the shadows, ushering in a new day.   The horns also complement that process, creating a new form of the blues that encourage hope and lift the listener’s spirits.  Every song has that special dynamic, making this an album that you will want to listen to from start to finish, over and over again.  Favorite cuts include “If That Ain’t Love,” “Can’t say No,” “Still got the Blues,” “I’ll Find Someone who Will,” “I Know you Lied,” and the nostalgic “Big top Hat.”  We also love her truly original cover of Thin Lizzy’s “The Boys are Back in Town.”  The final track, “Wildest Dreams,” provides the perfect cherry on top of a treat of an album.

Recommendation Let’s Just be Real is scheduled for release on May 16, and we strongly encourage you to Get it.  It believe it will be one of the best releases of this year, and a worthy addition to your musical collection.


Indie artist Janiva Magness deserves the hype

The National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, otherwise known as NARAS, gives out the Grammy Awards each year for the best in recorded music and spoken word.  While almost all winners are signed to one of the major labels, every now and then The Academy stands up and takes notice of indie artists or shines the spotlight on a legend making a comeback.

The trend began in 2012, when Linda Chorney became the first truly independent artist to secure a Grammy nomination in the Americana category.  Although she did not win, she did open the door for others like Omar Akram, an independent new age artist who won the Grammy for best new age album in 2013.

This year The Academy has shined its spotlight near and far, resulting in quite a few nominations of artists who are previously unknown or obscure, and at least one more indie artist.   Although she is signed to Blue Élan Records, a major independent label based out of Los Angeles that is also home to such legends as Gerry Beckley of America and Eagles songwriter Jack Tempchin, Janiva Magness is a relatively unknown indie artist whose music demands attention.

Believe it or not, Love Wins Again is the 12th album Magness has released in her career, and the fifth time she has worked with producer Dave Darling, who has personally garnered four Grammy nominations for his work with such artists as Glen Campbell, Brian Setzer, John Waite and the Stray Cats.

From the first notes of the title cut, Magness shatters the barriers between genres and unleashes an album that must be sonically experienced, with a healthy heaping of indie rock, soul, jazz, gospel and funk to sweeten the overall blues feel.

The album progresses with a stop on the Soul Train vibe of “Real Slow,” before kicking it singer-songwriter/ indie rock style on “When you Hold Me,” which just happens to be one of our favorite cuts.  The album continues with a gospel, soul feel on “Say You Will” before the almost Americana/indie rock feel of “Doorway.”   Magness kicks in with her full blues regiment on “Moth to a Flame” and “Your House is Burnin'” before dialing it back down with “Just Another Lesson,”  “Rain Down,” and “Long as I can see the Light.”  She closes out with the moving ballad “Who Will Come for Me,” to which we state the obvious – your fans.

Magness is a true artist who has mastered the art of bringing a message that transcends musical genres and ties an album together.  She definitely has our vote for Grammy and for providing one of the best albums of 2016, indie or otherwise.  We can hardly wait to see what’s next.


Get it or Forget it: Scarlett Taylor, McDougall, Michael Hornbuckle

Hard to believe but this is our 17th article in this review series – that’s 51 CD reviews since our first one back on September 7.  Indie artists have truly been hard at work in 2016.  I can hardly wait to see what 2017 holds.


Artist NameScarlett Taylor

Album NameChurches

Label:  Borderline Musick

Genre:  Alternative pop/dream pop

Track Listing: 1.  Fucked up; 2.  Crazy; 3.  Imprisoned; 4.  Vacancy; 5.  Off; 6.  Confessional; 7.  Ignite; 8.  Velvet; 9.  Without You; 10.  Christmas Eve; 11.  Shampoo; 12.  Cutting 

Publicist:  none

Review:  Scarlett Taylor is a fresh indie artist with a style that sets her apart from the pack.  She is an incredible lyricist who uses a musical style totally different from her peers to present her message.  Listening to Churches, her second studio album, it appears that she has had some bad experiences in her religious pursuit, and she tells her listeners the painful truths about her life.  The music is airy, spectral and intriguing, drawing her listeners in with something different.   We believe this artist has a lot to say, both in her current project and in the future, and recommend that you check her out.  We have a feeling that you’ll be hearing a lot more from this gifted artist.  Best track is “Ignite.”  Most provocative tracks include “Fucked Up,” “Imprisoned” (featuring Zay from The Truants), “Confessional,” “Velvet,” and “Cutting.”

Recommendation:  If you only like radio friendly music, then this is definitely not the disc for you.  But if you are eclectic in your musical tastes, and not easily offended, then we think you should definitely Get this album.


Artist NameMcDougall

Album NameReaching for Some Light

Label:  None

Genre:  Folk Rock

Track Listing: 1.  Roads; 2.  Stranger on the Prairie; 3.  Shaken; 4.  Ten Speed; 5.  Cut Loose; 6.  Pitcher on the Train; 7.  Make it Right; 8.  Story of the Gray Man; 9.  Barely Holding On; 10.  Watercolor; 11.  Moving Mountains 

Publicist:  In Music we Trust

Review:  With a voice somewhere between Tom Waits and Tom Petty, McDougall brings his folk rock stylings to his latest project, Reaching for Some Light.  It’s chock full of great story songs full of hope and the overcoming of obstacles.  Unlike his previous recordings, McDougall broke his long-time premise that if he couldn’t play it live, he wouldn’t record it.  What follows is a great disc of music where McDougall still plays almost all of the instrumentation, but recorded in a way that brings these songs to life.   Always a great lyricist, McDougall’s words are the backbone of these songs, but with this record, he allows himself the luxury of providing the musical background they deserve.  Every song on the album is worthy of your attention, especially “Shaken,” “Ten Speed,” “Cut Loose,” “Make it Right,” and “Watercolor,” which features the amazing violin work of Anna Tivel.

Recommendation:  If you like good music with a message of hope and love, then this is definitely the disc for you.  Get off your comfortable couch and Get It.


Artist NameMichael Hornbuckle

Album NameSoul Repo

Label:  None

Genre:  Blues

Track Listing:  1.  Candle for Mary; 2.  Risin Sun; 3.  Hit me Up; 4.  Angel; 5.  Baby Rock; 6.  Back Seat Blues; 7.  Me and Melody; 8. One Night; 9.  Soul Repo; 10.  Sweat; 11.  Wishin’ Well

 Publicist:  Doug Deutsch Publicity Services

Review:  Michael Hornbuckle has a legacy in the blues world, but he does not rest on those laurels on his latest release, Soul Repo.  From the first notes of “Candle for Mary,” Hornbuckle redefines the blues with this amazing collection of songs.  Of all the artists we have recently reviewed, this is the one we would love to see perform live.  His guitar licks are what memories are made of, and his sweet voice brings the songs home.  Best tracks include “Hit me Up,” “Angel,” “Baby Rock,” “Back Seat Blues,” “Me and Melody,” and the title track, although there is not a weak song among the bunch.

Recommendation:  Hornbuckle personifies the blues.  If you only get one new album this holiday season, then this is the one you want.  Get out and Get It now!


Getting to know the 2016 LA Music Critic Award winners – Gabe Dixon

Continuing on with our introductions of the winners from the LA Music Critic Awards for the first half of 2016, our featured artist today is Gabe Dixon, the winner of “Best single” for his hit song “Crave,” as well as Best Pop/Rock Male Artist.

When we reviewed his album Turns to Gold back in May, the comparison was made to Dixon’s music being akin to that of Bruce Hornsby and Phil Vassar.  Come to find out during our almost one-hour interview that Dixon has connections with both of these superstars.  The Gabe Dixon Band once opened a concert for Bruce Hornsby, while Dixon and Vassar are friends, having shared the stage at a huge gala in their native Nashville.

Ready to learn more about Dixon and his music?  Sit back, dig in and learn things.  Let me warn you – this is a long one (I did mention the interview ran an hour, right?)

IVB:  How long have you been performing?

GD:  I started performing pretty young, around the age of 12.  I had started learning piano at the age of 7, and got into the music of Elton John, Ray Charles and the Beatles.  I grew up in Nashville, and my mom encouraged me to audition for a teen band.  I did and was selected to be a part of the band Six Shooter, signed to Curb Records.  We were basically a country version of a boy band.  I wasn’t a big fan of the music, but they did keep us on tour a lot, with weekends during the school year and then all summer long.  The touring gave me a lot of experience and the ride lasted about four or five years.  It also gave me the confidence to start writing my own stuff, which I did around age 15.  It also gave me the confidence to start playing whenever I could, mostly keyboards in other people’s band.  By the time I got to college at the University of Miami, I was doing my own stuff.  After graduation, I moved to New York City, and I have been playing off and on ever since.

IVB:  Who are your influences?

GD:  My early influences were blues and songwriter based musicians like Jerry Lee Lewis, Elton John, The Beatles, Stevie Ray Vaughan, as well as stuff my parents listened to, late 60s and early 70s artists like Joe Cocker, Ray Charles, Paul Simon, Michael Jackson and U2.  Their music gave me a sense of songwriting and the basics.  That style was planted deep within me.  Everything I do now springs from that.  As I matured I got into my own stuff and loved jam band and improvisation stuff, and artists like the Dave Matthews Band and Phish, which led to Jeff Buckley and Radiohead.   Since those early days there have been so many influences that I can’t identify a single source.

IVB: What made you decide to DIY?

GD:  I’d never done it before and many of my friends had done it their whole careers.  I had previously signed with both Warner Brothers and Conchord Records, and had shopped my stuff around and gotten offers.  I just didn’t feel there was strong interest anywhere, so I decided to sever ties and try it as an indie.  I have never owned my own masters before so that’s a different experience.  Basically, I just wanted to try it all out and wanted to take charge of what I was doing.  I was intrigued by the whole crowd funding model of working directly with my fans.  I raised the funds I needed and got to become closer to my fans.  It was a good learning experience for me, allowing me to be more extroverted and interact with my fans.  When I was signed to a label, I never had this much say in who was working for me, so this is a great new experience.  I even left my old management firm after 10 years.  Doing it DIY has allowed me learn to trust myself and my intuition.  When it came time to get a publicist, I interviewed a bunch of them but never felt that connection until I met Laura (Goldfarb of Red Boot PR).   I want those who represent me to all be good people.  I never understood this before when the label did everything for me.

IVB:  Do you want to go back to being a mainstream artist?

GD:  I’m not sure at this time.  Just released my last album (Turns to Gold) in April.  (Going back) will depend on who the label is and what type of services they provide.  Their business models have all changed.  Right now my managers also own a publishing company and everything is more centered around me.  I’m transitioning more to being a songwriter, and I like not having to be on the road all the time.  I’ll never stop being an artist.  If it makes sense next time around, then I’ll probably go with them.

IVB:  What are your future plans?

GD:  I’m going on tour with David Ryan Harris (Twobadours) around most of the US.  I’m planning to take some time in late fall/early winter to do more songwriting and then maybe another short run in December.  I’m also hoping to go overseas next spring to Europe and the UK.  I want to work this album as long as I can.  I am doing a show with my friend Kenny Loggins.  I spent two tours opening for Loggins & Messina.  Someone is doing a documentary retrospective on the band and I was asked to be part of the taping in Chicago this weekend (July 29-30).  Other than that, my main focus right now is writing songs for my own project.  I will probably do something else in the next couple of years.

IVB:  Any good stories from touring/recording/performing?

GD:  I have lots of embarrassing stories, but we won’t go there.  I never can come up with these on the spot.  I’ve spent so much time on the road.  There was this one time in high school when I was playing in a blues band and we had a regular gig on Tuesday nights.  One night we were playing along and we heard that The Black Crowes would come by.  They showed up on our last song so we decided to continue playing.  They watched us and clapped and then got up and sat in with us for a “shake your money maker” jam session.  I was 16, and never thought they would remember me.  Many years later I was performing at SunFest in West Palm Beach.  We were coming off the stage when they showed up.  I went up and introduced myself and they totally remembered me.  They said I was a legend in their band and they kept telling people about this young kid who was killing to on blues piano.  Today, my son and the son of their drummer go to the same school.

IVB:  Where can your fans find out more about you?

GD:  I have the usual social media.  They can follow me on Twitter and Instagram, like my fan page on Facebook, and check out my website.  I love hearing from my fans.  They can also subscribe to my YouTube channel.

Women in entertainment: Rachel Alena, raising a ruckus

Now that the excitement of the LA Music Awards is over, it’s time to turn our attention back to the women that make indie music and art great.  This week’s Women in Entertainment spotlight shines on one of those winners, Rachel Alena, lead singer of Rachel and the Ruckus, and winner of Best Blues Band.

Alena grew up in the Los Angeles music scene and, according to her official bio, “started making music before she learned to talk.”  Her mother and father played in a band together and taught Alena about music.  Those lessons took root and created Alena’s deep love for music.  Her father played guitar in such bands as The Ronettes and the Crystals, both of which were produced the great Phil Spector.  Among her father’s credits were “Da Do Run Run” and “Be my Baby,” which received much radio airplay.   Alena became a session vocalist who also toured and performed with the Los Angeles Philharmonic before moving to Colorado in 2000.

Alena met guitarist Alec Sims in 2010 when they began playing together in a popular Colorado R&B band.  Their songwriting chemistry quickly became obvious, and Rachel and the Ruckus was formed shortly thereafter.  Sims was a published author from Massachusetts who got his musical start playing in blues and funk bands in the 1980’s.  They were joined by Kyle Comerford in 2012.  Comerford’s musical journey took him from the club scene in Los Angeles to touring with Carly Simon before joining Rachel and the Ruckus.  Last but not least is bassist Vince Carmellini, who joined the band in 2013.  Besides bass, Carmellini plays multiple instruments and his work is featured on several chart-topping albums.

What inspires Alena?  “That’s a big question.  There’s so much that inspires me.  As a young kid, all I ever wanted to do was to use my voice.  So, when I left home at 17, I went out into the world and became a session singer, a voice talent and went on the road and started living my passion.  When I was in my early 20’s, though, I began to develop a pretty strong anxiety disorder.  I’m not sure how it happened, but it got to the point where I was afraid to fly or go too far from home.  I stopped singing.  I even refused to sing at my own wedding.  About 12 years later, after having kids and feeling like I had completely lost myself, I started looking for help.  I needed to find my voice again.  One day, I came across a poem by Dawna Markova.  I keep it with me all the time now and it serves as a daily reminder for me.  The poem starts off by saying “I will not die an unlived life.  I will not live in fear . . .”  That’s what inspires me.  For my children and for anyone else who isn’t living their best life.  Live your best life without fear.  Do what you came here to do.”

Where does Alena see herself in the future?  “The band and I have some great shows on the books.  We’re writing new material and we plan to do a lot of recording this year.  We’ll have some new good nuggets to release in the near future.  R&R is also pursuing some licensing, so that may be coming down the pike. Personally, as a solo artist, I keep writing.  I plan to release some solo tunes this year and will be in the studio starting in two weeks.  I’m also continuing my voice acting work, which keeps me very busy.”

So how come Rachel and the Ruckus haven’t become a household word?  “That’s very kind of you to say!  I wish I knew how to answer that question.  All I know is that the guys in the band and I keep putting one foot in front of the other.  We do what we love and we shoot from the heart. That’s all any of us can do.  The rest is up to fate.”

To find out more about this amazing artist, check out her website and Facebook pages, follow her on Twitter and subscribe to her YouTube channel.

Shane Piasecki to debut new video

Back when I was writing for Examiner.com and AXS.com, I had the privilege of reviewing and helping to introduce Shane Piasecki, a brilliant new artist based in Nashville, Tennesee.

Piasecki will be releasing a music video for his soon-to-be hit song, “Jackie O” in the near future.  Here’s a sneak preview of that video:

Check out my review and stay tuned for the debut of this incredible music video.  In the meantime, check out his Facebook page.