Interview with Noel Herbert

Noel Herbert

photo by Zane Johnson; photo courtesy of Noel Herbert

by Eric Harabadian, Contributing Blogger

Noel Herbert is a singer-songwriter/multi-instrumentalist and composer located in Los Angeles. He is one of those rare artists that have the ability to deftly bridge the gap between personal introspective pieces and singles-savvy Top 40 fare. The prodigious songwriter and composer recently sat down with us to discuss his family, educational background, making it as a working musician in Hollywood, and the power of music as a vehicle for healing.

Eric Harabadian: Can you talk a bit about your background growing up?

Noel Herbert: I grew up in Farmington, Michigan. The very first groups that I listened to on my own were The Beatles and Simon & Garfunkel. The only music that was heard in my parents’ house was classical music and Irish Celtic music from my father’s side.

When I was seven years old, my father had a stroke and was severely disabled. It was definitely rough on me and my mother. I went from Beatles and Simon & Garfunkel into darker music like Marilyn Manson, System of a Down, Lamb of God, and stuff like that. But I always thought of myself as a folk singer, though. The first instrument I played was the glockenspiel. I always liked to sing and made up melodies. I started guitar lessons at 10 years old. Within the first three months of lessons I wrote my first song. At first, this was an outlet for me being a caregiver, with me and my mother taking care of my father.

EH: When did you get into performing music?

NH: Right before I turned 18 I had a group of friends who were all musicians. And we all sat around and thought we’d try and put some kind of thing together just for fun. I was the only folk singer out of a group of hip hop artists and rappers. So, that was particularly interesting and I started writing lyrics for them. I was also playing acoustic shows at this time. But, at that age, I was interested in becoming a rock star. I never thought about getting into electronic music whatsoever.

Around 19 or 20 I put together my first band which was me and a friend who played guitar and drums. He would alternate between the two for live sets. That band was called Illumination. And that lasted mid-way through my attending the Detroit Institute of Music Education (D.I.M.E.). Actually, I went to Boston for a while and attended the Berklee School of Music before I went to D.I.M.E. I released a single while I was there. At this time I stopped playing live because I was going to college to hone my skills as a songwriter. I started looking at what kind of songwriter did I see myself as. Did I see myself as writing commercial pop music or more on the artistic side? And I really struggled with this until I figured why couldn’t I do both?

EH: Is that a question you posed to yourself or was that something your college instructors would ask?

NH: It was a question one of my instructors asked me. I was supposed to come back with an answer the following week. But I really didn’t have a good answer to that until two months later. And at that point I had already written my first single with my project called Grass Bat. The song was called “Cigarette Showers.” So, I could do pop songwriting and do Grass Bat which was an artistic outlet where I could express how I felt. Grass Bat was very much like MGMT, Animal Collective, with sounds drifting into ‘80s rock like Depeche Mode, The Cure, and New Order.

EH: You graduated from D.I.M.E. in 2018. Was your plan to move to L.A. right away? Did you have work out there?

NH: I live in East Hollywood and I was considering coming out here a year before I did. I was dating somebody in Detroit at the time but really wanted to move to California. I decided to move shortly after graduating. I had this plan to come out here prior to dating this person so I wanted to stick to my plan. I was also contacted by a filmmaker that wanted me to work on a score for his film out here. That ended up falling through but was a little more of a push for me coming out here.

Noel Herbert - Favorite Worst Enemy

image courtesy of Noel Herbert

EH: So, tell me about your group and your latest single.

NH: It’s not even a group, it’s just me. Sometimes I’ll work with other songwriters, but mostly I’m doing all the lyrics, production, engineering, and instrumentation. This latest single “Favorite Worst Enemy” was a different song for me to release. I actually finished the song about six months to a year before I decided to release it. I was thinking about releasing it on an EP with other songs. But there was the challenge of what the song meant to me. At the time I was writing it I didn’t know what it was about. It was kind of stream of consciousness. It wasn’t until later that I figured out what was going on in my head at the time. I had fallen into a pretty depressive state that had been creeping along for some time. And that’s what that song is about. Having a favorite worst enemy is really just my own struggles within myself. It’s more of a dance-y type song compared to my previous releases. That has to do with really coming back to the Detroit techno scene. But also the only time I felt free from myself was going out and having a good time dancing; pretty much anything to get my mind off the fact that I wasn’t feeling very good. So, it’s a song about escapism, but holding onto those feelings very close to me.

EH: Without getting too personal, did you find this was coming from a certain place, perhaps an incident from the past?

NH: As far as something particularly from the past, not really. It’s very much a song dealing with me in the present.

EH: Well, mental health is certainly a relevant and timeless issue that manifests itself in different ways.

NH: Yeah, many people do deal with mental illness and depression. I started opening up to family and friends about what I was dealing with. It had only been a month and a half since I released the song that I started opening up to people about what I was dealing with. And once I started opening up to people, I realized they had their own stories. And they had similar issues and not feeling comfortable talking about it with people. I guess the campaign of this song, if you will, is to be open about your mental illness because it really de-stigmatizes the way people view it. People deal with anxiety, depression and all sorts of things. It’s much more common than anyone would think. So, I’m hoping by putting myself out there it will help at least one person to open up to others. And maybe it will make their life easier because I know it has for me.

EH: That’s excellent, man! Good advice. Being located in L.A. and Hollywood, are you currently playing live shows?

NH: Currently, not right now. At this point I’m strictly a recording artist and songwriter. I’m writing songs for Grass Bat but also synch licensing songs for corporate videos, television, and movies and submitting them to music house catalogs. I am also working on an independent film score that’s coming up fairly soon. And I should start working on that in a couple months. I also do side gigs and record other artists in my studio and host songwriting sessions to help people with their songwriting. All these little things you do to be able to live in Los Angeles.

EH: Well, you’re making it happen, man! A lot of people talk about quote, unquote “making it.” But, you know what, you are making it! You’re doing everything in your artistic and musical realm to make a living. And you’re following your passion. Not everything is always built around a hit single, if you know what I mean.

NH: No, not necessarily. Going back to what I said earlier, do I see myself as an artist or a Top 40 songwriter? I see myself as doing both. But I appreciate you saying that. There are different levels of making it. I’m 25 years old and I’m living in L.A. and getting by. That’s more than a lot of people can do out here.

EH: And you being from the Detroit area and involved in electronic music, there is a rich history of that coming out of Detroit.

NH: Yeah, Detroit and Berlin were where techno really took place. And I think there are arguments on both sides which one actually started electronic music. But I’m not gonna get into that. People know where I stand considering where I’m from.

EH: Tell me about your songwriting and composing process. You said you were gonna be working on a independent short film. Are you working with the director on that?

NH: You definitely work very closely with the director. In this case he is also the writer of the film. I’m gonna be on set with him later this month seeing how the film is being put together. I’ve seen some scenes and already know the storyline so I can start to wrap my head around what sounds would work best for the different sections of the film.

EH: And with songwriting you like to write for other artists, correct?

NH: When I write indie electronic stuff I usually know that will be for me. But if I’m writing more of a top line where melodies, lyrics, and chords are written on piano or guitar, it generally is inclined to be a song for somebody else. Generally co-writes are either for the other person or to pitch to another artist or A&R person.

EH: What kind of keyboard and audio gear are you using in your studio?

NH: I work a lot with my Roland 88. I take a lot of sounds that are on there and add different sorts of effects. My primary DAW that I used on “Favorite Worst Enemy” is Ableton Live and Push. I also use a multitude of in-computer synthesizers. While I mostly record with digital gear I do have experience with analog synthesizers too.

EH: Well, that’s something I’ve noticed about your Grass Bat music. You are a well rounded musician, and I hear that in what you do. Your stuff doesn’t sound synthetic or antiseptic like some electronica can be.

NH: Yeah, and also knowing how analog synths sound compared to digital synths. Digital synthesizers can sound really really pure. That sounds more synthetic to me. I’ve been trying to create more of a lo-fi tone to my synthesizers where it tends to be a little more distorted live.

EH: So, is there anything you have going beyond what we talked about?

NH: I’m working on a largely collaborative project, with multiple producers, songwriters and instrumentalists. I’m not sure if this will be an EP or an album. There will be a number of different people I know on it, but I still will be doing a lot of my own writing and production.

EH: When are you looking to release this new recording?

NH: Probably sometime within the next six months. There’s a lot of funding, marketing, and branding that has to happen first.

EH: Finally, what’s your take on the state of popular music today?

NH: Well, being an independent musician today, it is easier than ever to get your music out to anyone. It’s all about if you have the knowledge to reach the right people. It’s about finding your fan base and who wants to listen to your music. But there is such an influx of music on the internet that, in some ways, it’s never been easier and also never been harder to reach people.

Contacts: Instagram: @no_lmusic Facebook: www.facebook.com/noel.herbert.7902 Soundcloud: www.soundcloud.com/noelherbertmusic . You can also find his music through all the usual online sources: Spotify, Apple Music, and Amazon Prime.

Live Review: Danielle Miraglia at Front Street Concerts

Danielle Miraglia at Front Street Concerts

photo by Geoff Wilbur

Danielle Miraglia

Front Street Concerts, Hopkinton, MA

July 27, 2019

A Danielle Miraglia show at the Front Street Concerts summer concert series is an annual tradition. She’s one of Boston’s best. Period. Periodically, Boston’s music award series notice, often when she releases new music, and lately seemingly more consistently, year-to-year, regardless: She has been nominated for Blues Artist of the Year at the Boston Music Awards each of the last two years, and she won Female Performer of the Year at the 2019 New England Music Awards. She’s a consistent draw, seemingly able to draw her legion of fans out to hear her perform even when she plays locally several times a month. Danielle’s live shows with a full band, as Danielle M & the Glory Junkies, are all styles of blues-rock, from in-your-face to soulful and rich, while her solo acoustic shows are more blues-folk, as bluesy songwriting-driven acoustic songs would tend to be. But her music is always performed with an energy, her songs often written with a sincere yet mischievous wink. And it’s a rare treat to get to have such a world-class talent perform frequently in our midst.

Danielle Miraglia at Front Street Concerts

photo by Geoff Wilbur

Front Street Concerts is a backyard “house concert” series with a dinner buffet, an outstanding way to spend a summer evening, with attendees treated to inspired food selections and always featuring some of the best musicians around, with one slot each summer reserved for Danielle Miraglia. There’s a stage, sound system, and some seats in the barn, while the barn doors are left open, so most attendees choose to outside under the stars (or a tent, depending on the weather) in lawn chairs brought from home.

Danielle Miraglia at Front Street Concerts

photo by Geoff Wilbur

I’ve written about Danielle’s gigs so often (album review, live review, live review, live review, live review, and a long-overdue album review for All My Heroes Are Ghosts currently half-written), I opted this time to simply jot down song titles and deliver a photo-heavy review while enjoying the evening, the surroundings, the company, and the music. This performance was a mostly-Glory-Junkies show – always a treat, as the band members are all among the top local musicians at each of their instruments, often busy elsewhere in the area on non-Glory Junkies nights. With Erik White on guitar, Chris Anzalone on drums, and Jim Larkin on bass, only violist Laurence Scudder was missing for this particular show.

Danielle Miraglia at Front Street Concerts

photo by Geoff Wilbur

Rather than the usual Front Street format of two short sets with an intermission, this show was one long set, followed by some socializing after the performance. The band opened with the rockin’ “See the Light” from the Box of Troubles CD, followed by cynical, current affairs-driven “Monster” and “All on Fire,” both from the All My Heroes Are Ghosts disc.

Next up was the title track, “All My Heroes Are Ghosts,” followed by the pop culture-skewering “Famous for Nothin'” from Danielle’s Glory Junkies disc, and Janis Joplin’s “Turtle Blues.” Because there has to be a Janis song during a Danielle Miraglia gig; very few people can channel Janis the way she does.

Danielle Miraglia at Front Street Concerts

photo by Geoff Wilbur

Following was a raucous rendition of “Everybody’s Wrong” and a new original, a real treat for which my notes simply say “soulful, soft, and powerful.” And “Stagger Lee” concluded the original music portion of the evening.

From there, Danielle M and 3/4ths of the Glory Junkies finished the night spinning covers. First up was their rendition of Tom Waits’ “2:19,” a crowd favorite at a Glory Junkies show because they really make it their own. Next up was a cover of “Proud Mary,” a deliverance of Big Mama Thornton’s “Hound Dog,” and a Stones cover to close the evening. (Yes, I forgot to write that one down and was only able to remember “Stones cover” by the time I got home.)

Danielle Miraglia at Front Street Concerts

photo by Geoff Wilbur

As always, the Danielle Miraglia performance at the Front Street Concert Series was a highlight of the summer. By now, that’s expected. I hope to see a few of you there along with me next summer. And, in the meantime, perhaps at some of Danielle’s other gigs in the Boston area. And beyond, of course, as she performs up and down the east coast.

Looking Ahead

To that end – that of catching a live performance – check out the “Shows” tab on Danielle’s website. I just missed getting this posted in time to direct you to a few out-of-town gigs; well, OK, most of those were in early October, so I missed most of the shows by a mile, but Danielle did perform on Long Island last night. Don’t worry, she’ll be back. Locally, on Saturday, December 7th, she’ll be performing at The Center for Arts at the Armory in Somerville, MA. Other December shows are: Wednesday, December 11th at The Porch Southern Fare & Juke Joint in Medford, MA; Friday, December 13th at Turtle Swamp Bierhalle in Boston, MA; Sunday, December 15th at Lower Falls House Concerts in Greenfield, MA; and Sunday, December 22nd at Toad in Cambridge.

Danielle Miraglia at Front Street Concerts

photo by Geoff Wilbur

Beyond that, 2020 shows currently booked are Saturday, January 11th at The Fallout Shelter in Norwood, MA; Saturday, February 15th at the Portsmouth Book & Bar in Portsmouth, NH; Saturday, April 4th at the South Shore Folk Music Club in Duxbury, MA; Saturday, April 18 at New Moon Coffeehouse in Haverhill, MA; Saturday, April 25th at Nineteen Carter in Berlin, MA; Friday, May 15th at Kelly Music Center in Havertown, PA; Sunday, May 17th at Daryl’s House in Pawling, NY; and Saturday, May 30th for the Tremedal Concerts series at First Parish of Watertown in Watertown, MA.

Obviously, more shows will be added, so check back at the website regularly and follow both the Danielle Miraglia and the Danielle M & the Glory Junkies pages on Facebook, as last-minute appearances sometimes pop up.

Front Street Concerts, meanwhile, has concluded its 2019 music series. Watch the website next year for 2020’s shows.

Live Review: LadyLake Boston Showcase at City Winery

LadyLake Boston Showcase at The Haymarket Lounge, City Winery, Boston

photo by Geoff Wilbur

LadyLake Boston Showcase

The Haymarket Lounge, City Winery, Boston, MA

June 23, 2019

LadyLake Entertainment is a PR agency that represents several extremely talented music artists. I first discovered LadyLake back before I launched the music blog, during the ramp-up of my re-discovery of new music that eventually led me to return to music journalism. Of the three LadyLake artists featured in this showcase, held in The Haymarket Lounge within Boston’s City Winery, two were Boston-based. I had only previously been familiar with the duo of Lori Diamond & Fred Abatelli. This event was my introduction to the music of Linda Marks and David Martinez.

David Martinez

David Martinez

photo by Geoff Wilbur

A Corpus Christi, Texas-based singer-songwriter, guitarist David Martinez kicked things off with “The Otherside,” a smooth number that started out as a strummer and then slid into a groove. Next up was “I’m Alright,” a jangly tune with a sweet groove.

David proved he could do the sweet, poignant thing, as well, with his performance of “Sweet Sister.” And then, on “What You Need,” David’s music took a funky rockin’ turn, as if he was channeling Lenny Kravitz and maybe a little bit of the Rolling Stones.

David Martinez

photo by Geoff Wilbur

Next up was the title track from David’s most recent recording, “Piece of Me,” a ’90s/’00s-style acoustic singer-songwriter tune. There’s a kind of an acoustic pop-punk vocal edge in this sentimental song. Or, at least, it pays slight homage to that subgenre in the vocal and guitar style that gives “Piece of Me” its melancholy edge.

David closed his set with “Hey Mary,” a song with a catchy chorus and spoken-word, not-quite-hip-hop verses (delivered stylistically as if a movie voice-over). This song reminds me of something one of my favorite ’80s/’90s hair bands would have done back in the day. Exceptionally well put-together.

In all, a much-too-short sampling of this versatile, talented singer-songwriter’s capabilities.

Linda Marks

Linda Marks

photo by Geoff Wilbur

Boston-based Linda Marks followed, on the keyboard flanked by a guitarist and a violinist, showcasing her soaring vocals and focusing on songs from her yet-to-be-released (at the time) album In Grace, which dropped in September.

She opened with “Shallow,” a soft, soaring arrangement suited to this trio. Then “The Lion,” a song about addiction, sounding as if it was straight off of a poignant musical theater soundtrack.

Linda’s third song could have come straight out of a church service. As fellow performer and LadyLake artist Lori Diamond quipped to me, Linda’s music is liturgical. Indeed, and especially in this instant, very much so.

Linda Marks

photo by Geoff Wilbur

Linda followed with “Living on the Dark Side of the Moon,” a song she called a “torch song for a narcissist.” There’s almost a Tom Lehrer-ish, vaudevillian undercurrent in this hauntingly soaring number.

After a poignant fifth number, Linda and her band closed with their sixth song, “Light Up the Love.” A rich piano sound conveys the warmth of this song’s vocals. As throughout the set, I noticeably enjoyed the added texture of the violin while the guitar picking brought to mind a waterfall. As so often in her songs, Linda’s voice soars on this one, as well.

Lori Diamond & Fred Abatelli

Lori Diamond and Fred Abatelli with Kim Jennings

photo by Geoff Wilbur

Easy listening singer-songwriters Lori Diamond and Fred Abatelli were the evening’s final performers. They were joined onstage by Kim Jennings, just as they had been the last time I saw them perform, in December 2017. Here’s the thing about Lori and Fred. Yeah, they’re crazy talented, but also, do they ever miss a note?

They opened their set with “Good Harbor,” a favorite warm, comforting song with rich harmonies, followed by “The Outside,” whose powerful vocals splash across such subtle richness and depth of sound.

“Lifted” is one of those songs that reminds me Fred’s voice could carry anything from a mid-tempo rock group to a folky soft rock band, while also showcasing Lori’s sweet highs and rich lows. As much as Lori’s voice is more typically the signature sound of this duo, it’s easy to forget Fred’s vocal talents… until you’re emphatically reminded.

Lori Diamond and Fred Abatelli with Kim Jennings

photo by Geoff Wilbur

The duo next premiered a new tune, “The Good in You,” a rising and falling, more wall-of-sound, full-sounding song than usual. As part of the song’s coolness, I enjoyed Fred’s riffing guitar run.

Finally, Lori and Fred closed their set with their arrangement of “Wayfaring Stranger,” full of their own style and character. Lori pulls out some of her torchier, loungier vocals on this one. And Fred’s guitar has that weepy, tortured soul thing going on. A longtime crowd favorite and a great way to end the set for this transcendentally talented local duo.

Closing Number

After the end of Lori and Fred’s set, the evening’s entire line-up returned to the stage, joined by LadyLake Entertainment chief Cindy D’Adamo for a performance of “Will You Love Me Tomorrow.”

Looking Ahead

Per his Facebook page, David Martinez has a February 14, 2020 gig at Bar Under the Sun in Corpus Christi, TX.

The “Upcoming Events” page on Linda Marks’ website lists several upcoming shows in December. On December 2nd, she’ll be one of the nine members of the Women in Music Gathering to be showcasing as part of the LadyLake Music’s Charity Umbrella Initiative at the Hearing Room in Lowell, MA. On December 6th, she’ll be at the Square Root Cafe in Roslindale, MA. On December 11th, she’ll be at the RISA Songwriters in the Round event at AS220 in Providence, RI. She’ll be at the EBASS Christmas Show at The Burren in Somerville, MA on December 22nd. And on December 27th, Lucy will be one of the performers singing the music of Carole King and James Taylor at the Dedham Square Coffeehouse in Dedham, MA. See Linda’s website for more details and new dates as they’re added.

The “Tour” page of Lori Diamond & Fred Abatelli’s website lists a December 7th, 2019 gig at The Music Salon, hosted by Linda Marks (who will perform an opening set) in Waltham, MA; a March 28, 2020 performance as two-fourths of Fate’s Landing, splitting the bill with the Clark-Page Project at the Tremedal Concert Series in Watertown, MA; and  on September 20, 2020 at Applefest in Northborough, MA.

You can keep current with LadyLake Entertainment and all of LadyLake’s artists at the company’s Facebook page, its Twitter feed, and its Instagram account.

Live Review: Popa Chubby at 9 Wallis

Popa Chubby at 9 Wallis

photo by Geoff Wilbur

Popa Chubby

9 Wallis, Beverly, MA

May 10, 2019

It’s a shame I live and work in parts of the Boston area that make travel to Beverly for an evening at 9 Wallis an annoyingly difficult journey. Since shortly after it opened in April 2017, I’ve wanted to get out to this intimate concert venue/”listening room” on Boston’s North Shore. Top-notch national, regional, and the very best local acts perform there, including a lot of incredible blues artists, though far from exclusively, as personal favorite performers from many genres regularly dot 9 Wallis’ concert calendar.

Popa Chubby at 9 Wallis

photo by Geoff Wilbur

One of those rock/blues acts, of course is New York-based internationally-touring Popa Chubby. The dude’s a tour de force whose personality and talent fill the room, his shows a guaranteed good time, assuming you’re able to enjoy the blues. But I knew that before attending. Not from owning any of his recordings – though that would be a great idea – but rather from conversations with those who know and then, of course, listening to some Popa Chubby online. I had unsuccessfully attempted to squeeze a previous Popa Chubby 9 Wallis performance into my calendar, so when I saw this gig announcement, I circled the date on my calendar (figuratively speaking, of course, online) and avoided any scheduling conflicts.

On this particular night, the room was filled, and the joint was hoppin’. Popa Chubby’s vocal and performance style ranges from pure blues to rockin’ blues to rappin’ blues and beyond. Many of the songs this evening could be found on the Prime Cuts album, I believe (since it’s not in my notes, but even all these months later I recall Popa mentioning it frequently during the show), the most recent release of a long, nearly three decade career spanning dozens of albums, and a great intro to the broad range and exceptionally soulful, all-in blues style you can expect from Popa Chubby. At this 9 Wallis gig, and I get the sense this is typical based on others in the room who had been to prior Popa Chubby shows, every song was a blues jam, supported by Dave Keyes‘ talented keys with a very organ-like sound and a solid rhythm section.

Following are some highlights from the evening, as I jotted down notes whenever a song inspired me. And, truth be told, I was often so caught up in the show I didn’t think to take notes until I couldn’t remember the song titles anymore, so consider these some of the many highlights.

Popa Chubby at 9 Wallis

photo by Geoff Wilbur

Popa Chubby opened the night with a rollicking rendition of the Rolling Stones’ “Sympathy for the Devil,” featuring shredding axework, showing off the keyboardist’s skills, and absolutely great guitarwork and vocal growl.

Emotional favorite “Grown Man Crying Blues” – check out Popa Chubby’s performance of the song in this video on YouTube with nearly half a million hits – featured a shredding, wailing, and practically crying performance.

Popa Chubby original “Angel on My Shoulder” charged forward as a straight-ahead rocker with a blues strut, delivered emphatically and, of course, sporting guitar and keys jams.

Popa Chubby’s delivery of “Hey Joe” was soulful, psychedelic, progressive, and classic. “69 Dollars” kicked off with a weeping guitar opening and some edge and liquidity throughout.

Finally, in the anything-goes, full-on-enjoyment spirit of the evening, I very much dug the electric guitar-driven versions of the Godfather theme song and “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.”

Also of note, for one song during the set, the band was joined onstage by drummer Joey Pafumi of the Paul Nelson Band. And late in the set, Popa Chubby showcased his keyboardist Dave Keyes’ boogie-woogie keyboard skills. Keyes also sang vocals a little during the set, bringing a smoother blues vocal style to the songs he led vocally.

So glad I made it to this show; it was completely worth the effort, as Popa Chubby and his band gave it everything they had. And I can now confirm that 9 Wallis is, indeed, the great North Shore listening room I had heard so much about.

Popa Chubby at 9 Wallis

photo by Geoff Wilbur

Looking Ahead

Popa Chubby is currently touring in Germany, Switzerland, and Austria.  He’ll return to the northeast United States (New York, New England, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey) for a month in early/mid-December before returning to Europe for a month of gigs in the UK, France, Germany, and Switzerland. Click on the “tour” page of Popa Chubby’s website to see when he’ll next be performing near you. If you have a pulse, you’ll have a great time and be treated to some world-class blues-based musicianship and showmanship.

Single Review: Debbie Hennessey – “True Me”

Debbie Hennessey

photo by Matt Gendal; photo courtesy of Debbie Hennessey

by Eric Harabadian, Contributing Blogger

Single Review of Debbie Hennessey: “True Me”

Debbie Hennessey - True Me Single Cover

photo by Matt Gendal; image courtesy of Debbie Hennessey

Debbie Hennessey is an award-winning singer-songwriter, with many television and film credits. She has also released three full-length albums and seven singles. Her latest single is called “True Me.” It’s a heartfelt ballad that seems to draw from personal experience. Trying to put thoughts and feelings into words is, perhaps, quite challenging for most, but Hennessey does it in a plaintive yet uplifting manner. She sings with seemingly effortless phrasing that hits you where you live. The singer-songwriter’s vocals are full, rich, and dynamic, supported by Jonathan Haynes’ ethereal and somewhat bluesy guitar. “True Me” is a stellar tune in the vein of Bonnie Raitt or Sheryl Crow but remains totally unique in style and substance.

Live Performances

Debbie has a performance scheduled for February 20th Petie’s Place in Tarzana, CA. Check the calendar page of her website periodically for additional dates as they’re added.

Album Review: Dan Israel – Social Media Anxiety Disorder

Dan Israel

photo by Steven Cohen; photo courtesy of Dan Israel

by Eric Harabadian, Contributing Blogger

Album Review of Dan Israel: Social Media Anxiety Disorder

Believe it or not, Social Media Anxiety Disorder is the 15th release for this Minneapolis-based singer-songwriter. Heck, there are many major label artists that can’t claim that accomplishment! So, what’s the prodigious Minnesota troubadour been up to? Well, hot on the heels of his 2018 record You’re Free, Dan Israel climbs out of his songwriting comfort zone a little bit in favor of some clever production manipulation and playful arranging. He worked with two different producers in Jon Herchert and Steve Price, resulting in a cross-pollination of inventive ideas.

Dan Israel - Social Media Anxiety Disorder album cover

image courtesy of Dan Israel

Israel kicks things off with the horn-driven pop/rock of “Be My Girl.” It’s a strong single, with terrific airplay potential. The uptempo spark of the rhythms are complemented by Israel’s emotive Elvis Costello-like twang and a good time feel.

“125” shifts gears entirely placing the listener in a pseudo-psychedelic state. The dreamy flowing lead vocals and fuzzed out lead guitar are stellar. “Just Can’t Take It” features little quirky production ear candy bolstered by a catchy chorus and lush bridge. “Still I’m Lost” returns to that semi-psychedelic spacey kind of vibe. It’s a nice blend of thoughtful experimentation and melodic pop. It sounds like something Bowie would do.

“Might As Well Be Me” features a country-folk element. It is the closest to pure Americana you’ll probably find here. There is some tasty acoustic guitar soloing, and Israel’s vocals kind of remind me of something by John Sebastian.

Dan Israel - Social Media Anxiety Disorder album back cover

back cover; image courtesy of Dan Israel

“Another Day” is more catchy upbeat pop that this artist is known for. The slide guitar breaks here are very nice as well.

“Just Can’t Take It (Revisited)” is kind of a vocal reprise montage. Through musical snippets from the original track and spoken word, Israel slyly comments on the impinging stresses of modern society and the expectations of those involved in social media. It’s a mind-bender, for sure.

“Tired” prominently features organ and has an overall gloss similar to The Wallflowers and Crowded House. “Alright” follows and ushers in a kind of rockabilly swing. Its upbeat and bouncy groove is infectious. “Here for Today” has a simple and pragmatic message toward life of “trying to take a little and leave a little behind.” The dense guitar work here really rocks and provides a wall of sound.

Dan Israel

photo by Steven Cohen; photo courtesy of Dan Israel

The concluding two tracks “Out of My Hands” and “Out of My Hands” (Reprise)” sort of combines the spirit of the Rolling Stones album Exile on Main Street with a gospel touch. It’s a fitting way to wrap up the festivities and sends a poignant and pensive message of acceptance and soldiering on.

They say music is a healer and Dan Israel brings to light songs that can address serious topics of personal challenges and societal anxiety and present them in an entertaining and uplifting fashion.

Looking Ahead

Per the “Shows” tab on Dan’s website, he has a packed schedule of performances ahead. Currently lots of gigs in and around Minneapolis, some shows in northern Minnesota, and a January 31/February 1 house concert in Wilmington, North Carolina. So keep an eye on his website for performances in your area.

[Publisher’s Note: Geoff Wilbur’s Music Blog has reviewed each of Dan’s last three releases. I reviewed Dan’s album Dan. James Morris reviewed You’re Free. And now Eric Harabadian has reviewed Social Media Anxiety Disorder. – GW]

Live Review: Amanda White at ONCE Somerville

Amanda White at ONCE Somerville

photo by Geoff Wilbur

Amanda White

ONCE Somerville, Somerville, MA

April 15, 2019

I had intended to get out to an Amanda White show for a while now, and this was a Monday night when my schedule fell into place, and the start time was early enough that it didn’t impede getting home at a reasonable hour; I love early shows on work nights. So I ventured out to this gig, even though it meant traveling to the severely-parking-impaired town of Somerville. (I promise I’ll try to avoid a Somerville parking rant in this review. Mostly.)

Amanda White at ONCE Somerville

photo by Geoff Wilbur

I arrived in time for Amanda’s set. Backed by a talented band, she took the stage by storm. Amanda’s style is very old-school punk. Raw but tuneful music with a penchant for random profanity. But it extends well beyond that, as you can hear prog influences, while some songs feature Amanda’s venture into soaring, operatic vocal run that few can equal. If you know anything about my musical recommendations, you’ll know they’re either for well-performed pure musical styles or, more often, those with obvious external influences from a number of often-surprising other sources. You know, that plus great vocals and songwriting. Indeed, my punk rock recommendations are rare, but they are all must-listens.

Amanda White at ONCE Somerville

photo by Geoff Wilbur

The evening mostly featured songs from Amanda White’s latest CD, Kittens Give Zero Fucks. Prior to this show, I had only listened to the album online a couple of times. Though I’m more familiar with the music now, I’ll stick to my notes from the evening for this review. There’s a more detailed album review coming sometime in the future.

Amanda and her band opened the set with, according to my notes, “that soaring, moaning song.” Gotta be disc-opener “Last to Bite.” Next up was “Fuckall Rockstar,” delivered live in its full punk rock glory, much more distorted than on the recording. Exceptionally crunchy axework and an engaging driving rhythm provided the support, while the soaring vocals were opera meets Broadway meets punk. That vocal blend – one Amanda’s uniquely capable of achieving – is a recurring theme.

Energetic rocker “Whackadoodle World” (the “oh oh oh oh oh oh oh” song, per my notes) brought a bit more straightforward rocking energy to the set. Then catchy “Ur Wife,” with its hypnotic rhythm, followed.

Amanda White at ONCE Somerville

photo by Geoff Wilbur

After a soaring fifth song (“Dark Art”), Amanda reached back to her first disc, Toyshop, for “Monica’s Getting Her Tits Done,” a tune musically catchy largely due to the recurring rhythm guitar hook.

The evening’s seventh track (noted simply as “rawks!!!”) was followed by the evening’s power ballad, “Someone’s Watching Over Me,” a song that showcases vocal versatility while still being haunting and dark.

Speaking of haunting and dark – and throw in a healthy dose of foreboding – and you’re talking about the first few minutes of “Fade” before guitar and drums help the song build to a scream. With its power shifts and movements, there was a bit of a Broadway flavor to the evening’s performance of “Fade.”

And, to close our the set Amanda closed with soaring, symphonic prog-metal “Adora.” And what better set-ender. Though punk-rock attitude permeates the performance – a pure New York-style punk rock double-bill with Bad Mary would be an unforgettable event – Amanda’s singing and songwriting versatility are what sets her apart. And she and her band rocked this particular Somerville evening. Hard. Raw. And powerfully.

Allison & Moon

Allison & Moon; photo by Geoff Wilbur

The Evening’s Other Bands

The opening and closing acts of the evening were also worth catching, even though I kind-of didn’t. Evening openers The James Rocket caught my ear in my pre-show listening, but my attendance at its set fell victim to the “circling Somerville looking for parking” portion of the evening; I arrived in time to catch the last few seconds of the group’s final song. The closing set by Allison & Moon was a treat, or at least it was for as long as I stayed, but I only caught a few songs and took no notes, so I’ll have to catch them again one of these days.

Amanda White at ONCE Somerville

photo by Geoff Wilbur

Looking Ahead

Be sure to check Amanda White’s Facebook page for future gigs. At the moment, the only one listed is a February 8, 2020 show at Connolly’s in New York. The evening’s closing band, Allison & Moon, next plays on December 11th at O’Brien’s Pub in Allston, MA.