Five Nights in London #4: Tom Lukas

Tom Lukas

Upstairs at The Distillers, Hammersmith (London)
October 30, 2015

Tom Lukas

photo by Geoff Wilbur

Geoff’s Night Out: Five Nights in London #4

I’m in London for five nights and plan to review one show each night. For Friday night, Night #4, I had a few options, but the one that sounded the most interesting was going to take two trains and a bus to get to and from. Typically, I’d like to see more than one band on the bill, and I had really planned to focus on original music this trip, but I made an exception. The Distillers is a room multiple people I respect have played. Therefore, I opted to see a show there just so I will have seen the room in person next time I see or hear it mentioned. Plus, I checked out Tom Lukas’ music online before the gig and thought he’d be worth seeing in person.

Live Review: Tom Lukas

Tom Lukas

photo by Geoff Wilbur

Tom has a gravelly, expressive voice (though he surprised me by losing the gravel on one tune in particular), a range that allows him to perform well across a broad spectrum of styles, a variety of guitar tools that help keep the guy-with-a-guitar thing fresh longer. On this evening at The Distillers, Tom put those to use across three sets of cover songs.

He selected a fun track to open the night with, The Lumineers’ “Ho Hey,” absolutely nailing the song with and emotional, rough edge to his voice. Hey followed that with one that engaged the night’s early crowd a bit more, Ray Lamontagne’s “Trouble.” In fact, the theme throughout the night was Tom’s gravelly vocals, good vocal range, and ability to vary his style of music and tempo well.

Speaking of varying styles, and because I’ve already described his style, I’ll just mention a few of the more notable songs in Tom’s repertoire. On his rendition of Otis Redding’s “Sitting on the Dock of the Bay,” Tom rounded some of the original’s rough edges but added a few vocal flairs of his own. Vance Joy’s “Riptide,” meanwhile, is a song that really suits Tom’s voice, and he delivered it with great energy and a bit of a modern style.

Tom showed off his tempo change skills with Jack Johnson’s “Better Together.” His version of “Every Day I Have the Blues,” meanwhile, was relatively clean, crisp version but still with a bit of his cool rasp. Tom got a bit funky later on with a cover of Blackstreet’s “I Like the Way You Work.”

Tom’s cover of “Ain’t No Sunshine” was a subtle departure, in that he showed off deeper vocals without his trademark gravel — a great choice for this song, one that impressed. His interesting arrangement of Pharrell’s “Happy” came across more rocking and rootsy than the original. And it took me a few seconds of Will Smith’s “Gettin’ Jiggy Wit it” before I decided his cool rendition was worth gettin’ jiggy wit.

Indeed, it was a smorgasbord of great songs all night, also including Stevie Wonder’s “Superstition,” The Killers’ “Mr. Brightside,” the oft-covered “Brown Eyed Girl,” Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky,” and a rendition of “Summer of ’69” that could almost have been Bryan Adams himself.

So in spite of the fact I caught a cover night performance, I was treated to a talented singer-songwriter (sans the songwriter portion of his repertoire) performing a broad range of songs, varying his basic style just a bit to fit each of them.

What’s Next?

I have an idea for Night #5, but I’m not sure if I’ll change my mind, and then I’m not sure if I’ll be able to get it posted the next morning because I need to check out of my room and fly back. So if Night #5 gets posted quickly, great. If it’s delayed, well, know you’ll know why.

Five Nights in London #3: Sonya Titus

Saraswati, Sonya Titus, and Bradley

The Troubadour, London
October 29, 2015

Sonya Titus

Sonya Titus; photo by Geoff Wilbur

Geoff’s Night Out: Five Nights in London #3

I’m in London for five nights and plan to review one show each night. Last night, Night #3 was an evening at The Troubadour. A few days after I booked my flight, this became the first show on my docket when Sonya Titus announced she was booked there. As you may have noticed, I’ve written and tweeted a lot about Sonya. Indeed, I’ve urged you to get out to this show. If you made it, you saw a great performance and heard one of the voices I most frequently recommend.

For the rest of you, let me tell you about the show. Now, you might notice the review of Sonya’s set is in quite a bit more detail than that of the other terrific artists on the bill tonight. No apologies. I was getting familiar with the other singers this evening, so I’ve written my usual brief live review summaries. However, I was already so familiar with the songs in Sonya’s performance I opted to chronicle them accordingly. Now let’s dive into what turned out to be a full evening of top-shelf vocal performances.

Saraswati

Saraswati; photo by Geoff Wilbur

First Set: Saraswati

Saraswati performs an interesting style of music. She accompanies her sweet, high voice with strumming guitar. She sings all around the song’s melody, offering up her own delivery style — a distinctive, engaging style that pervades everything she performs, including making cover tracks seem like her own. With exceptional execution of her stylistic delivery throughout, overall, Saraswati’s set was an enjoyable one.

Sonya Titus

Sonya Titus; photo by Geoff Wilbur

Second Set: Sonya Titus

Indeed, Sonya’s performance — the first time I have seen her perform live — was much-anticipated, and she didn’t disappoint. She kicked off the set with “Hypnotize,” proving she was in top form this evening. Second song, “Mamma,” showcased the richness of her voice as well her power, while also throwing in some high notes. Sonya followed that with a cover of Bonnie Raitt’s “Guilty,” an interesting rendition in that most vocalists struggle with clarity on this cover, offering more rasp than in the original in order to find the emotion, while Sonya instead was able to deliver it with crystal clear power much more similar to Bonnie’s version. That takes a special talent.

The following song, “Now,” is the song that convinced me about Sonya two years ago due to the strength and delicacy required. This would seem to be a difficult song to match the studio precision in a live performance, yet Sonya pulled it off, including all of the song’s intricacies. She followed it up with her newest song, her first-ever live performance of “Resurrection”; if it’s possible for a song to sound bluesy without actually being bluesy, “Resurrection” does just that, while throwing in a bit of a haunting vibe for good measure.

Next up was another cover, Sonya’s rendition of “Stay With Me,” which is also available online. This is a widely covered song right now, and strong voices always make it sound good. She followed that with her second relatively new song, “The Other Side,” which suggests she may have added a little soulfulness (not a lot, just a little) to her trademark style in recent writing sessions, and it really fits the subject matter of “The Other Side” well. This new song also features an especially catchy rhythm, perhaps the reason it proved a crowd favorite.

Sonya Titus

Sonya Titus duet with Azu; photo by Geoff Wilbur

After that, Sonya brought vocalist Azu onstage with her to cover “Lost and Found.” She had told me about Azu before, and she’s right, he is quite a talent with his great, high, strong voice complementing Sonya’s as a nice duet pairing.

Then Sonya closed her set with a cover of “Ain’t No Sunshine,” a song that shows off her lower register a bit. Worth noting is the nice arrangement that sped things up later in the song, giving an interesting flair to this number.

There’s a reason I’ve written and tweeted about Sonya Titus so much. It’s because, with performances like these in addition to her stellar recordings, she makes me look like a brilliant judge of talent. So glad to have been fortunate enough to catch a set like this while in London.

Bradley

Bradley; photo by Geoff Wilbur

Third Set: Bradley

So how can someone follow a set like that? With his powerful, gravelly vocals, Bradley did a fine job. The first song utilized a build to power, and his vocals were able to sound emotional while still hitting all the notes, showcasing his talent immediately. Through Bradley’s set, he showed off his highs and lows over all tempos, slow and fast, while moving between loud and soft. Indeed, he always had that gravelly thing going on, which allows him to add a kind of bluesy edge to what might otherwise be considered straight-up pop/rock tune. He closed his thoroughly engaging set with “Carolina,” the best of a very good set of songs. During “Carolina,” power built during the song, while being exceptionally vocally emotional. Overall, Bradley’s set proved an exceptional end to an evening of fine performance.

Five Nights in London #2: Blurred Vision and The Bedford

Blurred Vision

 229, London
October 28, 2015

and

Joel Bailey, Alice Gullick, Velvet Engine, Sherika Sherard, and The Lemmingtons

 The Bedford, Balham (London)
October 28, 2015

 

Geoff’s Night Out: Five Nights in London #2

I’m in London for five nights and plan to review one show each night. My slow, cranky travel computer and slightly dodgy internet reception may make it a little difficult to post each day, but I’ll do my best to post as promptly as possible. Night #2 featured a special treat, an invitation-only industry showcase for Canadian band Blurred Vision at 229. I then headed out to Balham to catch live music at The Bedford, where five acts were featured, each playing two two-song sets.

Blurred Vision

Blurred Vision; photo by Geoff Wilbur

First: Blurred Vision at 229

The evening started early with a showcase event for Blurred Vision from Canada. Featuring Iranian brothers Sepp and Sohl Osley on guitar and bass and drummer Ben Riley, the brothers had a viral YouTube hit with a video produced by Babak Payami and then, as a band, recorded an album with producer Terry Brown, who introduced the brothers to their drummer in order to fill out the trio.

The video I mentioned, in 2010, was for their version of “Another Brick in the Wall” in which they changed the lyrics to “Hey Ayatollah leave those kids alone.”

Of course, I know these things now, but I entered the show without an awareness of the video, and ironically one of my first notes about Blurred Vision’s sound was that I could detect a Pink Floyd influence. The band’s heavy-though-accessible style also mixes influences of melody, song-driven bands with that Pink Floyd vibe, and one particular song drew on a bit of late eighties/early nineties Metallica vibe, though not quite as heavy.

The band’s “Another Brick in the Wall” rendition (with its lyric edits) was a little faster with a bit more edge and roughness; it worked well and gave the song its own Blurred Vision spin.

In summary, the short set was a sufficient introduction to this talented power trio’s “tuneful heavy rock with harmonies.”

Then: 5 acts at The Bedford

The format at The Bedford was interesting. There were 5 acts, each performing 2 songs in a first set and two songs in a second set, not quite performing in the same order each set. In all, it was an evening of twenty songs, a bit of a sampler of a variety of artists. As it turned out, my journey out to the venue landed me there just as the first artist was about to begin his second song, so I caught nearly the entire night. I’ll summarize each of the five artists in the order I first saw them, though I’ll cover both two-song sets in each performer’s paragraph.

Joel Bailey

Joel Bailey; photo by Geoff Wilbur

Joel Bailey was onstage when I arrived. and I immediately noticed the smoothness of his voice. He’s a polished singer/songwriter whose voice and tone would likely already make him a coffeehouse circuit favorite. And I do mean “favorite,” as what I’ve heard of his music is all relatively mellow, and he has a firm presence onstage; he’s good with the onstage banter.

Alice Gullick

Alice Gullick; photo by Geoff Wilbur

Alice Gullick was next up. She has a bit of a quirky voice with a great, edgy tone. An engaging singer, she’s clearly folky, with a hint of an Irish flair (or, at least, what you’d hear at an Irish pub’s more progressive singer/songwriter night back in the States). Alice is at her best when she utilizes her full range, from her highs to her low and the appealing way her voice cracks with emotion at times (as on her song “Fire”). She comes across still a bit nervous onstage (she’s still young), but she’s perhaps the most intriguing singer I caught at The Bedford, as with her insistent edge and slightly pop sensibility, she quite obviously has the tools to tap a broader audience down the road.

Velvet Engine

Velvet Engine; photo by Geoff Wilbur

Next up was Velvet Engine, a duo with a very old-school folky vibe. Indeed, quite well-suited to wherever folk music on the bill, there is also a bit of an insistent vocal edge at times. Of note, and showing a fair bit of creative flair, Velvet Engine’s fourth song of the night was a cover of Ghostpoet’s “Meltdown,” which they adapted quite seemlessly to their own style. Well done, indeed.

Sherika Sherard

Sherika Sherard; photo by Geoff Wilbur

They were followed by Sherika Sherard, whose voice is strong, tuneful, and crisp with a hint of a rasp. Combined with the sometimes harsh vocal style that weaves around the tune as much as she follows it, her music is catchy and original enough that she could have some broad pop appeal already. Of note during her sets, particularly showing off her strengths, was the song “We Don’t Need a Reason.”

The Lemmingtons

The Lemmingtons; photo by Geoff Wilbur

The final performers of the night were The Lemmingtons. These musicians have a clear sense of who they are and how to engage a crowd with their onstage shtick, and they do it well. An old-fashioned country music styled group that throws in plenty of wackiness. From traditional, straightforward toe-tapper “Hold On” to a clap-along tune whose title I neglected to note and closing number “Wet Slippery Floor,” The Lemmingtons absolutely know how to engage a crowd.

What’s Next?

Tonight (Thursday) I’ll be at The Troubadour to see Sonya Titus perform. She’ll go on relatively early (about 9:00ish), so if you join me (and if you’ve read my blog you’ll know I think you should because Sonya shouldn’t be missed!), be sure to arrive in time. Still deciding about Friday and Saturday nights.

Five Nights in London #1: Bob Malone

Bob Malone with Amy Eftekhari and Loose Moorings

100 Club, London
October 27, 2015

Bob Malone

Bob Malone; photo by Geoff Wilbur

Geoff’s Night Out: Five Nights in London

I’m in London for five nights and plan to review each show. I have a slow, cranky little netbook computer that isn’t cooperating (I love it because it’s small, but I hate it because it’s slow), and I fell asleep as soon as I got back to my room last after this first show, so I’m not necessarily going to guarantee I’ll get a review up on the night of each show, but I’ll do my best. And I kick off this series with a night at The 100 Club, featuring powerhouse rockin’ blues piano-man Bob Malone.

Loose Moorings

Loose Moorings; photo by Geoff Wilbur

Opening Act: Loose Moorings

Loose Moorings was the first band on the stage, and what amazing power and energy this band put forth. There’s almost a bit more rock than blues in this band. Hard rocking blues guitars, great vocals that were growling at times, simply powerful tuneful at others. The best description of Loose Moorings, on this particular night at least, would be cross between The Cult and George Thorogood. They set the bar high to kick off the night with their blues-influenced, tear-the-roof-off-the-joint hard rock. Loose Moorings self-describes as “a black denim blues band that rocks!!” I can’t argue with that.

Amy Eftekhari

Amy Eftekhari; photo by Geoff Wilbur

Second Act: Amy Eftekhari

Indeed, that unenviable task fell to Amy Eftekhari, who delivered a more standards-singer/jazz (with a hint of blues) set with her relatively deep, raspy voice, backed by a team of extremely talented musicians, who were given ample opportunity to showcase their skills as well during Amy’s set. It was an odd placement as far as musical progression, nestled between Loose Moorings’ wall of sound and Bob Malone’s… well, Bob Malone. But Amy did yeoman’s work and absolutely earned the crowd’s appreciation and respect.

Bob Malone

Bob Malone; photo by Geoff Wilbur

Headliner: Bob Malone

I’ve known Bob Malone for years. I’ve reviewed his music and even interviewed him for my prior publication, Geoff Wilbur’s Renegade Newsletter, back in 1998. So it was a pleasure to finally see him perform live in a setting such as the 100 Club.

Bob kicked things off with a rousing rendition of “Why Not Me,” showcasing his gruff, engaging, sometimes Randy Newman-esque vocal style. Early on, as well, Bob showcased this talented bandmates skills, allowing them to shine. But really, this night was all about Bob, his trademark rockin’ blues sound on The 100 Club’s piano, and the engaging personality and expression he delivers to the fortunate audience at one of his live performances. And even though this was the last date on a grueling UK tour for him, Bob was spot-on tonight.

Early on, as he built the energy up, Bob brought the room down a bit and held its rapt attention with “Can’t Get There From Here,” a favorite of mine that had exactly the audience reaction it should.

Bob had the room rocking regularly, though, with his high-energy crowd favorites, “Rage & Cigarettes,” “Keep a Certain Distance,” and “Toxic Love,” before again bringing the tempo down with the emotional “Watching Over Me.”

The night closed with uptempo “Ain’t What You Know” and a rendtion of “Stay With Me” that would give Rod Stewart a run for his money. As Bob left the stage, however, the crowd reaction was immediate, and he returned for his encore to play the sentimental, heartfelt, passionate “Paris.”

Bob delivered everything I expected — great musicianship, terrific vocals that perfectly fit his well-crafted songs, and a supporting cast of exceptional musicians. Great kick-off to my stay in London.

What’s Next?

Well, show number two will be at The Bedford tonight (Wednesday night), followed by Thursday night at The Troubadour (in particular to see Sonya Titus perform). Friday and Saturday nights are still up in the air. I’ll keep you apprised as I decide, if I decide in advance.

The Road Back #9: Ilona

The Road Back to Music Journalism #9 (Bonus): Ilona’s Music Industry Showcase

Invitation to a Music Industry Showcase

Summer 2015

Ilona

Ilona, Tony Moore, and KT Parker at Rockwood Music Hall; photo by Geoff Wilbur

The Backstory

I had discovered Ilona’s music early on during my return to new music discovery. In fact, her CD Thunderstorm was the second CD I purchased from overseas. I had also tweeted quite a bit about Ilona’s music as far back as January 2014, and she often replied with thanks. But we really didn’t start communicating until after I ordered the CDs and they failed to arrive. Sound familiar? (It would if you read Road Back #6.) Yes, twice I ordered CDs from the UK from different bands, and both times they failed to arrive the first time. In any case, thus began our communication, as the method I chose to reach out and ask about the CDs was managed by Ilona herself, not her management. Many months later, when Ilona came to the U.S., I tried to connect her with one of my industry contacts. Though it fell through in the end, I was able to be free from work on the day of her showcase, and she invited me to attend.

Ilona

Ilona, Tony Moore, and KT Parker at Rockwood Music Hall; photo by Geoff Wilbur

Why This Was a Step on the Road Back

Technically, I had already decided to start the blog by this time and had set October as the launch date for the blog, but if I hadn’t already decided, this cool event almost certainly would have “sealed the deal.” First, I received an incredibly warm welcome from Ilona, her band, and her management, even though I was “merely” a former music journalist who tweeted occasionally. I’ve been treated well on a variety of occasions with just that background, but it’s still the sort of thing that reminds me how many wonderful, nice people there are in the music biz. Second, wow, it was a very cool event. I’ll review Ilona’s outstanding performance below, but yes, this is the sort of thing that reminds me why I was involved in music for so many years, and it absolutely would have been the final push needed for my decision to return if I hadn’t already made that decision a few weeks earlier.

Ilona

Tony Moore, Ilona, and KT Parker at The Cutting Room; photo by Geoff Wilbur

Live review: Ilona at Rockwood Music Hall; Ilona at The Cutting Room

The night — or late afternoon, perhaps — kicked off with Ilona’s Rockwood Music Hall showcase. She performed a short set for a small, invited audience. The songs I recall from the set were two that show off Ilona’s incredible power vocals, energetic mid-tempo pop-rocker “Back to You” and powerful ballad “I Still Fall For You,” plus her latest single at the time, the countrified crooner “Beautiful Country.” During the set, Ilona showcased her vocals, which are every bit as strong live as they are on her recordings, and her stage presence, as she shares her engaging personality with the crowd in such a way that she naturally wins over the audience.

Later that night, Ilona had a relatively early set at The Cutting Room, and she rocked the crowd, giving another solid, skillful performance. Much of the set was similar to the showcase set, but she also trotted out “Wrong Places,” a song she ably uses for crowd participation purposes and for which she shot her most recent music video. For both shows Ilona was flanked by Tony Moore on guitar and keys and KT Parker on bass.

But that’s hardly a review. So let me tell you about Ilona’s vocals. Just wow. Her raspy voice adds edge to everything from soft rock ballads to uptempo pop-rockers. There is a hint of country in her voice at times, particularly on “Beautiful Country,” and even I suggested there was a hint of country-rock in “I Still Fall For You” in one of my tweets, but while she might be a great country duet partner (as Kelly Clarkson and Shakira have been), Ilona’s sweet spot is power pop/rock. I’d expect to hear her on radio stations that played Kelly Clarkson, Pink, and Jessie J. Songs like “Love is Stupid” and “Move (Together as One)” highlight this sort of energy, as does the newest song, almost blues-rocker “Wrong Places.” (By the way, I predict “Wrong Places” will be a live-show favorite for years to come.

Ilona also swings a little mellower, especially with a couple of her more recent top trackes, which would place her squarely in the style of some more adult soft rock radio playlists, as well. Listen to “Back to You,” particularly the tuneful vocal wail at the 2:30 mark of the song. (In the “Back to You” music video, it’s at the 2:43 mark.) That’s a power rocker’s vocal chops with a balladic pop/rocker’s sensibilities. “I Still Fall For You” is similar. And, of course, “Beautiful Country” is a country-themed slow song.

Fast songs, slow songs, and an instantly-identifiable, exceptionally expressive, raspy, amazingly powerful voice. Ilona impresses more with each listen, and impresses even more if you’re able to see her perform live. She’s a unique, one-of-a-kind talent with a trademark sound. Exactly the sort of artist worth checking out.

My Return to Music Journalism is Complete; What’s Next for the Blog?

Those are the nine steps that brought me back to music journalism. Starting tonight, October 27th, I’ll be kicking off a series of 5 nights in London with coverage of Bob Malone’s concert at the 100 Club. On Thursday, October 29th, I’ll be at the Troubadour to hear Sonya Titus, who you may recognize as the subject of article #4 in the “road back” series. I’m still deciding where to go each of the other three nights, but I do intend to tweet about it. So if you’re in London, come out and catch some great music with me.

After that, I’ll work to get some additional writers involved, and the blog will become its long-term self, a mix of song/album reviews, live reviews, and interviews. After today, you can expect no more than one article each day, so rest assured if you’re an e-mail subscriber, you won’t be inundated. I hope you enjoy, and here’s to a nice, long run!

 

The Road Back #8: Bridget Davis and the Viking Kings

The Road Back to Music Journalism #8: Bridget Davis and the Viking Kings at Rockwood Music Hall

Spring 2015

Discovering a New Band at a Bar

Bridget Davis and the Viking Kings

photo by Larufoto; photo courtesy of Bridget Davis

The Backstory

I was spending a weekend in New York, and the friend with whom I was having dinner on Saturday evening suggested catching a few sets at Rockwood Music Hall. We arrived mid-set for one group and stayed for two more. The second of the three groups that evening was Bridget Davis and the Viking Kings. Between sets, I found myself standing next to Bridget and struck up a conversation, complimenting her on the band and offering a couple thoughts I had during the set. Even in the decade-plus away from music journalism, I still always examined the music I listened to; I wrote reviews in my head whenever I was at a show or spinning a new CD. And even with all those years away, I still felt compelled to share what I thought, particularly with the musicians themselves. I, of course, was able to quickly share my background, and that has been enough both online and in person to get the attention and appreciation of the musicians with whom I share my thoughts. I enjoy this part of being involved in the music business. And that night in June was no different.

Why This Was a Step on the Road Back

It’s one thing to share thoughts and exchange notes online, but it’s quite another to do it in person. This is what I used to love so much about being a music magazine publisher. Of course, in that moment, I merely signed up for Bridget’s mailing list and planned to look more closely into the music when I got home. But that night, combined with all of the previous steps on the road back (and indeed I had started to consider the thought of a return), was the event that cemented my decision to finally launch this blog. The decision didn’t exactly come immediately. In a sense it did, but it took a few more weeks for me to convince myself. For the launch date, I picked out a week in late October, a time when I would have some vacation days, as a good time to get the blog started with a complete set of informational pages and a flurry of posts. As you can see, that’s what I’ve done. So, even though it wasn’t immediate, step #8 was essentially the last step on my road back. (But yes, there will be a step #9 article. One more thing happened that would have sealed the deal, if it had been necessary, and it certainly convinced me not to reverse course on my decision. But I’m getting ahead of myself.)

Live Review: Bridget Davis and the Viking Kings at Rockwood Music Hall

June 13, 2015

Bridget Davis and the Viking Kings

photo by Geoff Wilbur

First of all, apologies for the blurry photo. I bumped a setting on my camera during the evening but didn’t realize it until later that night. But you can sort of make out Bridget and her bandmates in the picture, can’t you? OK, then let’s start the review.

Bridget Davis and the Viking Kings songs’ have what I refer to, for lack of a better phrase, as “engines” – those often-song-long rhythmic hooks that seem to be BD+VKs’ signature (sometimes a bass line, sometimes a guitar line, occasionally drum-based, once in a while even vocal) are the band’s strength, what sets them apart from other bands in their genre. Bridget has great vocals, of course, but I think their songs (not just the songs themselves but their unique songwriting style, namely their songs’ “motors” or “engines” – yes, I can’t decide which word is more descriptive) are their real advantage.

Indeed, when I sought out Bridget Davis and the Viking Kings’ music after the show, I started with the most recent EP, January. And I instantly recognized the songs that had drawn me in during the live show, “The Breakdown” – I easily that song’s “motor” from a couple days earlier – and “January.” Also, perhaps “Jonas,” though I didn’t take any notes at the show, so I can’t be sure. But if you want an introduction to the band’s music, there is no better introduction than “The Breakdown.” The song is one long hook, with a pulsing acoustic rhythm you’ll be hearing long after the song is done and vocals that rise and fall perfectly with the melody and as called for in the lyrics.

As a whole, the folk-rock style embodied by Bridget Davis and the Viking Kings – a sort of alt-rock folk with a pinch of Americana – tends to be song-driven rather than vocalist-driven. And while Bridget’s voice is sweet and clear with an odd waver when called for (well-suited to, perhaps, a Chris Isaak style tune), it’s not the band’s calling card. In fact, it’s just a part. It’s the songwriting, notably the hooks (or “motors”), that define BD & the VKs. This is a band whose music – as expressed through its well-crafted songs – is the reason you can identify the artist so easily when you hear the songs. And I give the group immense credit for forging its own path; I’ve heard so much folk-rock and Americana that just sits on the record sounding pretty but doesn’t distinguish itself. That’s why I’m so high on Bridget Davis and the Viking Kings, a strong band with catchy songs… and a unique sound in a genre in which it’s hard to sound unique.

Looking Ahead

Actually, this is looking ahead to a future article but looking back for the band. About a month ago, Bridget Davis and the Viking Kings released a full-length album, I Wasn’t Planning on the End. My commitment to buy that album when it was released was the last financial musical commitment I made before deciding to return to writing. About a month ago, on the day it was released, I purchased the album. You can look forward to a review of it in the next few weeks. Spoiler alert: I was not disappointed.

The Road Back #7: Danielle Miraglia

The Road Back to Music Journalism #7: Danielle Miraglia’s Glory Junkies CD

Fall/Winter 2014/15

First CD Pre-Order

Danielle Miraglia

photo by Geoff Wilbur

The Backstory

I can’t recall exactly how I discovered Danielle Miraglia’s music, but I believe it involved local live show listings (and the subsequent checking-out of bands listed) because I first viewed out YouTube videos before finding Danielle’s Box of Troubles album available online as a free (“name your price”) download. After months of listening to that album on my PC playlist, Danielle had become one of the artists whose recordings I would look forward to buying as soon as it was released, so I took it one step further and pre-ordered her Glory Junkies CD in the fall of 2014; the album was completed and released that winter.

Danielle Miraglia

photo by Geoff Wilbur

Why This Was a Step on the Road Back

My first CD pre-order was simply one more piece of evidence that I was becoming more involved in the discovery of new music. Since that pre-order, I’ve seen Danielle perform live three times; that’s more than any of the other original independent musicians I’ve been following the last few years. Granted, she performs locally quite a bit, and I happened to be in the right place at the right time a couple of times, but her performances are always absolutely worth it. (I’m partial to her shows with a full band, but that’s no surprise; I do like to rock.)

CD Review of Danielle Miraglia: Glory Junkies

Danielle Miraglia

image courtesy of Danielle Miraglia

The word that best describes Danielle’s vocal style is “can I have more than just one word, please?”. She can rock, she can do sultry, she’s frequently a little raspy and gravelly, she can go extremely bluesy — well, she’s always a little bluesy, but sometimes yowza! Regardless, Danielle’s voice is an unmistakable powerhouse. And most of the time it sounds as if she’s singing with a good-natured smirk. And there’s a good chance that’s exactly what she’s doing. All somewhere on the spectrum from folk to blues-rock to full-on blues, yet every song is identifiably, undeniably, absolutely a Danielle Miraglia song.

Danielle Miraglia

photo by Geoff Wilbur

The Glory Junkies tune with probably the greatest hit potential due to its monster hook is the not-quite title track, “Glory Junky.” Lyrically, the song is soaked in sarcastic wit, as well, which only adds to the fun. If you’re looking for blues, you might want to try “Left Hand Turn,” though it’s an absurdity-as-reality style of blues, really the only of its kind on this album, with Danielle wailing the lyrics quite matter-of-factly. Meanwhile, Red Sox fans (and baseball fans and psychology fans in general) will enjoy the slower-paced, folky “Heat of the Win,” essentially a study of misery and forgiveness as it relates to Bill Buckner. “Tear It Down,” meanwhile, delivers a truly rollicking brand of fast-tempo blues. Less bluesy, the slow, lyric-driven “Carmella” really knows how to tell a story; it will play on your sympathy if you listen closely. There’s also a bit of commentary in the twanging surf-blues of “Famous For Nothin’.” But there’s also plenty more pure humor on the disc, from sarcastic zombies at the door in “Coffee-Stained Thank You Cards” to pigeons in, well, “Pigeons.” But be careful what you dismiss as humor; there’s always a bit more “there” there, as is the case with the aforementioned “Pigeons.”

So once again we return to the dilemma of describing Danielle’s musical style. Blues. And folk. And blues-rock. Not so hard. But it’s Danielle Miraglia’s brand of blues/folk/blues-rock. Replete with sarcasm, wit, deep thoughts, great lyrical turns of phrase, and an always-a-little-bluesy vocal style that can navigate all three of those styles (and probably more if she chose to) but still always be undeniably, recognizably her own. Glory Junkies is a fun disc, a musically, vocally, and lyrically satisfying journey. Of course, with Danielle Miraglia at the wheel, it’s no surprise.