Sunday, November 22, 2015

The Walcotts

The Walcotts at the El Rey: nowhere to go but up

Review: There is a reason why people were lined up Monday night on the sidewalk outside the El Rey Theater in Los Angeles at 5 o’clock.  As one girl who was hanging over the barrier separating the photo pit from the stage said, “We  wanted to be right here when The Walcotts come on”.  Of course she – and the hundreds of people pressing her and her friends into the rail – were also there for the headliner, Christ Stapleton.  But  LA’s high-octane,  countrified, California Americana rock band was more than enough reason to stand in the cold for 2 hours. Being within touching distance of  Tom Cusimano,  Laura Marion, Devin Shea and the other half dozen indefatigable musicians that make up The Walcotts was a special magic.
And The Walcotts delivered that magic. The pounded out a generous set of 12 songs, all so high powered and fast moving that you could almost feel the air being pushed off the stage like the exhaust of a jet plane.  If you only knew The Walcotts from their country/folk-tinged videos on YouTube or their downloads, their performance would have been a real eye opener…like a double shot of espresso mainlined into your arm.

On tour since the beginning of July, but energized by being back home in LA, Tom, Laura, Devin and the gang were obviously on a high themselves. Laughing, getting down with Greg Barn’s heavy blues rock piano riffs and Devin Shea’s red hot violin solos, they moved through “Hanging Tree”, “By the Morning” and “Let Me Take You Home Tonight” like a runaway freight train.  Although Cusimano was looking into a dark cavern he knew was packed with a thousand people who he could not see, he made a real connection with the fans.  You could look around the main hall and see that  there was very little talking, texting, or other distractions going on.  He and the band had this crowd engaged.

After a career that has included smaller stages in LA and elsewhere, giving The Walcotts’ nine band members the run of a full-sized stage was both a release for the band and a visual energizer for the audience.  Laura Marion was able to spread out, shimmy in her little black dress with the fringe, swing her long red hair around  and undulate her arms to Jim Olson’s layered drum beats while she sang.  You could tell she enjoyed the space from her blinding smile -- you could practically see her teeth from the balcony she was having so much fun.

The large space also gave the horn section plenty of room, not only to play but to move, important for the trombone player.  The addition of brass gives The Walcotts, whose name is drawn from the classic band song "W.S. Walcott's Medicine, Show",  a depth and shine in their music,  like the next step in the evolution of a California Americana sound.  In their hands on stage that sound was musically tight, but creatively flexible. While the  beat was solid rock and the feel was folk and country, the mind-meld that happened onstage among the musicians was jazz-like.  Undoubtedly the product of hundreds of hours of gigs and rehearsals, the band seemed to operate as if by telepathy.  The music took on a life of its own as it flowed across the stage from player to player. Sometimes the band moved like a single living being; other times single instruments stepped forward and hooked us by the ears and the feet.

Speaking of feet, the one downside of The Walcotts playing in a large standup venue like the El Rey is there is little room to move and none to dance.  It was hard to resist joining them on stage during “Let the Devil Win or the closing song, “Coalinga” and rocking out. Next time maybe a dance pit instead of the photo pit?

So now where do The Walcotts go now?  My guess is headlining larger venues,  playing openers for arena shows and even top-of- the-ticket at major festivals -- and of course, their own tour. They are that good.  They know how to deliver energy and joy to an audience of any size. The El Rey show  introduced local audiences to the power music that their YouTube videos and Soundcloud downloads don’t capture. The tour with Chris Stapleton has spread their energy and joy far beyond their home base of LA.  The only direction now for The Walcotts to go is up.

Get social with The Walcotts

LA. Correspondent
Patrick O'Heffernan

@Music FridayLive!

Peter Kelly

Release: New York City, based pop/rock singer songwriter, Peter Kelly, releases a new LP titled, Don’t Let Me Be Alone, featuring the singles “Like We Do” “Fear of Landing” and “Tailwind (It’s A Beautiful Day).” The album premiered on Songwriting Magazine, October 30th.

A trained guitarist from the Berklee College of Music in Boston, Kelly graduated with a degree in music performance and moved to New York City to begin his career. He performed in multiple bands, including Hemenway and Roadside Poets, and during recording sessions, Kelly met soon-to-be producer, John Campos. After deciding to go solo, Kelly continued to collaborate with Campos and the two produced and wrote Kelly’s new material. Elmore Magazine spoke highly of Kelly saying “between his sleek vocals, rhythmic artistry and storytelling chop, Peter Kelly is a game-changer in the pop community,” while Working Musician said, “Kelly’s sharp, ironic, and hypnotic lyrics hark back to old-school John Lennon and mesh perfectly with the crystal clear, superbly playing and arranged music.”

Kelly has performed at the notable Cipriani in New York City for the United Nations, with special guest Arnold Schwarzenegger. His songs have also been featured on notable networks such as CMT and Starz. Kelly has received praise from Skope Magazine, The Working Musician, among many others. True Radio describes Peter Kelly as the “Bruce Springsteen of our generation.” Furthermore, Skope Entertainment states, "Peter Kelly’s voice is steady, confident, and in a style that is all his own.” Don’t miss out on Peter Kelly’s new LP, Don’t Let Me Be Alone!

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Lisa Gary

Released: Pop vocalist/songwriter, Lisa Gary, is proud to announce the release of her new track,Good Love, the first single from her debut album, Goin’ Your Way. Gary teams up with six-time Grammy-nominated producer and arranger, Rob Mounsey (Billy Joel, James Taylor, George Michael, Idina Menzel), and Grammy-award winning engineer and mixer Mario J. McNulty (David Bowie, Prince, Nine Inch Nails). The record features trumpet legend Lew Soloff, best known for his iconic solo in the Blood, Sweat & Tears hit single, “Spinning Wheel”.  As Gary’s close friend and mentor, Soloff leads the horn section on Goin' Your Way, which is one of his last recorded works before he passed away in March 2015. 

Raised in a musical family in New York, Gary began playing classical trumpet at age 9 under her father’s tutelage.  After discovering jazz, she uncovered her strong vocal ability and went on to study Vocal Jazz at McGill University’s Schulich School of Music in Montreal. Based in New York City again, Gary transitioned from singing jazz standards to writing and performing original pop songs inspired by her many influences from indie and folk to jazz and funk. A regular headliner at NYC staples like The Bitter End, Birdland, and the Plaza Hotel, Gary now takes a leap into the recording industry.

Lisa Gary's brilliant artistry and unique point of view are second to none. What a joy it was making music with her! Lisa is the real thing,” praises Mounsey. Emerging with her debut album, Gary and her all-star team introduce her own authentic brand of pop with a vintage flair. Listen here to Lisa Gary’s premiere single, “Good Love,” off her debut album, Goin’ Your Way!  Also watch out for the “Good Love” music video later this fall and Goin' Your Way to drop in early 2016!

Get social with Lisa Gary

Animal Years

Released: Brooklyn-based, Americana-influenced roots rockers, Animal Years, announce the release of their new song,Give It Up.” “A shot of musical serotonin," the track is the lead single from their upcoming second EP, the follow-up to 2014’s Sun Will Rise.

  “Built on a solid foundation of blazing guitars in the back, and singer Mike McFadden's barnstorming tenor up front,” (The Deli NYC), Animal Years have been on a rapid ascent since 2012. Relocating from his native city of Baltimore to Brooklyn, NY McFadden (lead vocals, guitar, banjo) joined forces with Anthony Saladino (bass) and Anthony Spinnato (drums). The “brilliant debut album,” (When The Gramophone Rings) Sun Will Rise, has received buzz from notable tastemakers, such as American Songwriter, The Huffington Post, Relix, Baeble Music, Filter, The Music Ninja and more. Their most recent video, “Forget What They’re Telling You,” stars actress Bailey Noble (of True Blood fame) and premiered on Conan O’Brien’s blog, Fresh Noise at Team Coco. "These guys could bring down an entire arena with their smooth ringing guitars and frontman Mike McFadden's hypnotizing vocals. Seriously, [they] will fly you to a whole 'nother universe,” (Indie Shuffle) and that has been made apparent to rapidly growing audiences at legendary venues, such as Music Hall of Williamsburg, Brooklyn Bowl (opening for Robert Randolph and The Family Band) and The Gramercy Theatre (with Martin Sexton).

The new EP from Animal Years will be dropping in early 2016. “Give It Up” is now available on all digital platforms. Available on iTunes & Spotify

Get social with Animal Years

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Daphne Willis

Release: Nashville singer-songwriter Daphne Willis just released her latest EP (on Nov 6), Get It, a collection of unabashed pop songs that she co-produced with Chris Gelbuda. The EP, which features the first single “Done With Bein’ Done” (co-written by Willis and Meghan Trainor).

With Chicago roots and Texas ties, Daphne Willis brings both musicality and grit to the songs she writes and plays. Born in San Antonio to a classically trained vocalist and audio engineer, Daphne began singing at an early age and found her way to the guitar in high school. Since then, she’s developed the confidence, melodic mastery and vocal range that have won her admirers from here to Beijing.

To record her first full-length album, Daphne headed to the hills of Tennessee. She released What to Say in 2010, which was co-produced by Tim Lauer and Grammy winner Gary Paczosa. Album number two, Because I Can, came out in 2011 and reached the number two spot on iTunes' Top 40 Singer/Songwriter Chart. On her latest EP, Inside Outright, Daphne co-wrote songs with Hunter Davis, Chris Faulk, Angela Lauer, John Oates of Hall & Oates, Keri Barnes and Tim Lauer.

Daphne currently calls Nashville home, where she crafts her distinct brand of pop and is poised to expand her fan base world-wide... In the mean, time you can download or hear or tracks here.

Get social with Daphne Willis 


Portland, Oregon garage-rock/powerpop duo Hemmit kicks off the release of their 4th album “Straight Outta Nowhere” with a global lip-sync video for “Brohemoth”, the album’s first single. The ambitious video was a co-creation of fans, dancers, models and performers from around the world who submitted footage of themselves lip-syncing and rocking out to the song.

Filmmakers and performers from Berlin (w/Luna Trash), Barcelona, Tokyo, British Columbia, Los Angeles, New York, Miami, San Francisco, San Diego (w/Raven Lynette), Seattle, Portland, Eugene, OR and Madison, WI all contributed to the project. The piece includes footage from nearly 50 fans and performers who created their own mini-videos of the song in outdoor locations around the world. The footage was sent to Hemmit headquarters in Portland, OR and edited together to create a seamless, global lip-sync performance of the song.

The video premiere coincides with the release of Hemmit's latest full-length “Straight Outta Nowhere” which features 11 tracks of guitar rock and pop with influences drawn from 60’s Rock, Punk, Power Pop and Garage Rock. The Rolling Stones “19th Nervous Breakdown” is the album’s sole cover and Hemmit supercharges the Stones’ garage-rocker with trademark punk swagger.

“Straight Outta Nowhere” is the follow-up to 2014’s “Antimatter”. Boston’s renowned WMBR selected “Antimatter’s” lead track “15 Minutes” as a Best of 2014 song and Indie Rock Cafe selected the album as a Top DIY Album of 2014.

Hemmit is based in Portland, OR and the recording duo have been creating riff-heavy rock and pop gems since the early 2000's, mixing garage rock, punk and power pop into a melodic and energetic brew.

Get social with Hemmit

Monday, November 9, 2015


The self-assembling Puzzle that is  Rashmi Singh.
An exquisite crystalline image that lingers long after the final note.

Review: Rashmi Singh admits that she is still finding her voice – although the voice that sings on her second album, Puzzle, is so glorious that most people would be content with it. But not this Texas-raised, New York-based-singer-songwriter/actress/director who easily moves from country western to blues to pop to indie in a single album.

“There are times when I feel like I am still finding myself…my unique voice is taking its time to come out,” Rashmi says when explaining how Puzzle fits together country, folk, blues, rock, and ballads in a coherent whole that defines gentrification while it demands attention.  

The pieces of the musical puzzle that is Rashmi are varied and unique: the soundtracks of the Indian movies of her childhood, the classical music she listened to as a youth, the omnipresent top 40 and country western music on the radio in her formative years in Dallas, the weekend salons of poetry, music, food and conversation her art-loving engineer father and doctor mother gathered at their Dallas home. As Rashmi arranges and re-arranges these pieces, seeing which ones fit with others, trying this variation then that, the gossamer image of a rising talent is taking shape before our eyes and ears.

Fewer than half the seven songs on Puzzle are country, (on the iTunes version, counting two versions of the title track) opening with “Old Times Sake” a solid big-guitar country song about an old relationship, but with a rock guitar twang and city-sophisticated drumming. It started as an acoustic arrangement that grew, calling out for more instrumental depth and for one of lead guitarist Wilson Montuori’s down home electric solos after the bridge.  “Old Time’s Sake” shows that Rashmi does country and she does it well.

But she does much more. As the twang dies down from “Old Times Sake”, Rashmi sweeps you away with the title song, a gossamer excursion into her journey of arranging and rearranging the puzzle pieces of who she is and what she creates. Not good enough now she sings, always looking for better. Framed in dreamy guitar strings, soft drum hits and the full and gentle force of Rashmi’s spacious voice, “Puzzle” is only one of the variations of how Rashmi fits together the pieces of this album, but to me it is an exquisite crystalline image that lingers long after the final note.  

Puzzle quickens the pace and shifts the mood back to country, with “Fly with Me”, a joyful, addictive  rhythm guitar and kick-drum-driven call to join her heart’s sky-high quest. But it is also a caution that she demands courage – don’t get aboard if you’re just going to fall apart, I need to know we are going the same way/once we are off the ground there’s not much more to say. Proving how far off the ground she is flying is “Here Again”, a dreamland of a love song with a hint of the Indian voice from her childhood’s films but a structure that, while country in feel,  defies genres in a slow-dance twirl.  Carried by a jazz-like drum/bass line and minor key guitar that knows exactly where your emotional solar plexus are, “Here Again” is a waltz at a nostalgic heartbreak ball. How do I forget the way  you make me feel, she asks in the opening verse. The same could be asked of those who hear the song, and the answer is “you don’t forget”.

“Choosing Blues” takes us into a different part of Rashmi’s heart and mind – the search for home, specifically LA or New York, done in a down dirty blues song that speaks of her arrow-sharp songwriting and an embedded feel for blues. While “Puzzle” is the crown jewel of the album, “Choosing Blues” will go to the top of playlists the most often:  it gets you in the gut.

The album leaves you with “Shadows”,  and ethereal, but  definitely not delicate, tale of a shadow-drawn world of loss that unfurls like a black and white canvas with her voice, accented with cinematic overdubs set to a compound drumbeat and rhythm strums. Like “Puzzle”, “Shadows” lingers long after the last night dies.

Puzzle is Rashmi’s second album and it pushes even farther into wider worlds than her debut, Rainstorm, ventured.  In doing so, it leaves us with a gift of introspective and emotion laden songs that stand up solid on their own as they mark the next signpost in what will be a very productive future.  It is so much fun listening to Puzzle assemble and reassemble Rashmi’s musical muse and it is going to be even more fun watching Rashmi create and present even more puzzles, musical and otherwise.

Get social with Rashmi

LA. Correspondent
Patrick O'Heffernan
@Music FridayLive!