New Song Releases

I haven’t done this in a while, and I promise to do it on a more frequent basis.  There is a ton of great new indie music being released, and what follows is just a very, very small sample.  I decided to make it a little easier for the reader to find these artists by actually including the music in the article.  Do them all a favor by checking them out, becoming a fan and buying their music.

Static in Verona, “Madeline”  The latest from Chicago alt pop sensation Static in Verona.  High energy, feel good greatness that makes you want to move and hit the replay button over and over again.

 

 Red Light Effect, “Full of Nothing”  Reminiscent of their last indie hit, “Phosphorus”, “Full of Nothing” continues in this band’s tradition of providing driving alternative rock with great hooks.

 

Camryn, “Glow”  More alt pop from LA artist Camryn.  Great minimalist instrumental tracks (acoustic guitar in a pop song), strong vocals and flawless harmonies make for a very unique and satisfying sound.

 

Melissa Ramski, “Masquerade”  A little change of pace, as I move to a Nashville staple.  Everything you would hope for in a country hit- sexy outlaw country vocals, great instrumentals combined with a flawless mix.  This is the new sound of modern country.

 

Wide Eyed Boy, “Loving You Is So Easy”  An old school funk style groove with some great modern twists.  Soulful alternative rock at its finest!

 

Almost July, “Growing Up”  New England sensation Almost July with their latest alt pop offering.  Please explain to me why this isn’t being played on every pop/dance radio station on an hourly basis!

 

Diamante, “Coming In Hot”  The long awaited new release by Diamante.  A little hard rock, a little pop, a whole lot of pure party music!

 

Tamanie Dove, “Dance In The Rain”  One of indie music’s most versatile vocalists, Tamanie goes back to her roots here and provides us with a wonderful old-time country waltz.  

 

The March Divide, “Tired Voice”  With a real fun feel of being on a sunny beach somewhere, another great alt indie hit from March Divide.  I love the real light instrumental arrangement, which allows the vocals to be the showcase of the song.

 

Fickle Friends, “Glue”  Easily the best pop group you have never heard of.  Precise arrangement, driving beat, tender yet powerful vocals all make for a dance hit sensation. 

 

Massive, “Calm Before The Storm”  Transport yourself back to the golden age of stadium rock with this new release by Aussie rockers Massive.  All the makings of a new rock anthem.

 

Concert Review- Saint Luke’s Drifters

Living in Colorado Springs, I don’t have many chances to catch a truly hot show, without dealing with the hassle of traveling in and out of Denver (which sucks) and the extremely late arrival time home when coming down from Denver (I need all the beauty sleep I can get).  It took a recent trip to Nashville and an accompanying road trip to Knoxville, TN to finally catch one of indie music’s truly hot acts- Saint Luke’s Drifters.  SLD recently played a set for the WDVX Blue Plate Special, and we were lucky enough to catch some incredible music live.

For those not familiar, Saint Luke’s Drifters is an eclectic collection of Tennessee area musicians, covering a wide variety of country and rock backgrounds.  Guitarist and vocalist Kenny Clark, bassist and vocalist Mitch Laney, drummer and vocalist Scott Kirk, and guitarist Johnny Beemiller bring a ton of musical experience and talent to the table. Despite their differences in backgrounds and playing styles, the band comes together perfectly to create an outlaw rock sound that even the legendary masters of rock would kill for.   Their grass roots Americana sound is one full of energy and passion, and their 2016 release, “Trials and Tribulations”, perfectly captures the personality of this band.  Recently named 2016 Artist of the Year by Music Mafia Radio, SLD has a reputation for putting on a killer live show.  They did not disappoint.

The WDVX Blue Plate Special is a weekly show showcasing regional and national independent talent.  Hosted in the Knoxville Visitor’s Center, it is a small and intimate venue, not the type of place you would expect to find a band known for its habit of turning up the volume.  However, the band did an incredible job of controlling the volume without sacrificing their overall sound, filling the room with great music without blowing the windows out of the place.  Playing multiple selections off their current album, including “Long Weekend”, “Battle of Wounded Knee” and “Heart of Stone”, they had the entire crowd rocking in their seats (and me singing along on more than one occasion).

With indie music, my biggest fear is always that the tricks and techniques used to record an album can’t be recreated in a live environment, leaving the listener with a stripped down version of their favorite songs when seeing a group in person.  My fears quickly dissipated within minutes of them taking the stage.  I was greeted with a mix and a full, rich sound that actually put the album to shame. The vocals were crisp, with full, in tune harmonies (extremely important to me), and the instrumentals were crisp, with each instrument easily heard in it’s own space.  Screaming guitar solos from both Kenny and Johnny were spot on and added a whole new level of greatness to the performance.  In essence, I was presented with a live product that very few well known acts would be able to reproduce in a similar environment.  Most importantly, the fun the band was obviously having on stage quickly consumed the audience.  Their energy on stage is infectious, and it quickly filled the room.  They left us longing for even more.

If you ever get the chance, I highly recommend Saint Luke’s Drifters as “must see music”.  I promise you won’t be disappointed.

 

Saint Luke’s Drifters latest album, “Trials and Tribulations”, is available on Spotify, Reverbnation, iTunes, as well as many other online music retailers.

To learn more about Saint Luke’s Drifters, visit their website at www.saintlukesdrifters.com.

 

Album Review: Kylie Nicole, “Stay”

The dream of any blogger, social media influencer and lover of music is to find themselves in the situation of experiencing a brand new talent on the music scene that has the “it” factor.  To do your thing in a way that helps these obscure artists find some measure of success and help them grow their circle of exposure.  For me, having done all this for a short 6-7 months, I thought it to early for this to happen to me.  I was wrong.

Long story short- we took a night to drive down to Franklin, Tennessee to attend a Songwriters Showcase at The Whiskey Room Live, a bowling alley lounge that livestreams their showcases on the internet.  Three artist an hour, taking turns on the stage to play some of their own music.  Honestly, I had gone down to listen to Cletis Carr, a wonderful Australian musician I have been following for some time. In Cletis’ trio of musicians was this young lady in her twenties, stuck between two old guys.  Her name was Kylie Nicole.

Kylie Nicole Feltenberger had an unorthodox upbringing, growing up in a military family that moved frequently throughout her youth.  Now in her twenties, “Stay” explores the emotions of life as seen through the eyes of a young adult musician.  Most of the songs deal with the subject of love and relationships, and do so in a way that draws the listener in and connects to the feelings we have all experienced.

“Stay” is Kylie’s sophomore offering, a five song EP with a fantastic sound.  The title song showcases and highlights Kylie’s talent as a songwriter and singer.  The words beautifully capture the emotion of that one relationship that had the “it” potential, but faded away into something less perfect, less desirable.  The mixed emotions of this situation are perfectly captured by her sweet, thoughtful and moving vocals.  “Third Degree Burns” is what new contemporary country should sound like.  Her voice hints at a measured power that is very hard to come by, and it is backed by a powerhouse of sound that beautifully complements everything she is trying to accomplish vocally.  “Driftin'” has an island feel to it and works on so many levels, a fun song that causes arms, legs and heads to move to the beat.

From a production standpoint, this is as clean a mix as you can expect from a new artist, easily rivaling what you hear on commercial radio.  The balance is spot on, and the quality of musicianship behind the vocals is top studio quality.  Produced by Jeff Feltenberger and Jason Shaffer, with mixing and mastering by Shaffer.  The solo guitar of Dustin Douglas on “Hurricane” cuts through with the driving hard rock sound which is finding its way into today’s country music, and the Lap Steel and Dobro work of Alan Starner adds incredible depth and layers to “Stay”.   Combine all this with a very solid rhythm section of Ron Simasek (Drums), Jeff Feltenberger (Guitar) and Steve Feltenberger (Bass) and you have all the makings of a top rate sound, certainly worthy of mainstream attention.

But, the focus should be on the songwriting and singing of Kylie Nicole.  An incredible talent, and someone to keep an eye on.  I know I will.

Coz

“Stay” is available on Spotify, iTunes and Apple Music, and Kylie Nicole will soon be featured in rotation on Music Mafia Radio.

Nashville: A Snapshot View

I’m winding up a week in Nashville, and have some observations.  Some of them I expected, some I did not expect to the degree I experienced.  I’ll elaborate on some of these points in future articles, as time permits, because there are some important points to make about the music industry in general, as it exists in Nashville.

I should probably start off by saying that both Nashville and Tennessee in general are absolutely beautiful.  We drove to Knoxville and back today, and the green forests are something to behold.  Everyone we’ve met has been incredibly nice and polite (although we didn’t meet anybody originally from Nashville).  The city of Nashville is undergoing a huge facelift, which I’m very much on the fence about.  I understand the growth, and the accompanying jobs that come with it, but the quaint charm of Nashville is slowly disappearing.

My observations:

  • The music history here is incredible.  I had the opportunity to stand in front of Bill Monroe’s mandolin, from which everything bluegrass was born.  It was a truly cathartic moment for me, and one that I will never forget.  I could easily come back for another week to dig a little further into the history.
  • There is obviously a ton of incredible musical talent here.
  • There are not enough venues to showcase all of the talent.  Those that do get the opportunity are generally playing for tips, even in the more popular venues.
  • Original music is almost non-existent in Nashville proper.  Cover bands seem to be the only thing most establishments are interested in.
  • I did find original music, but had to travel to Franklin (which you’ll hear more about later) and the previously mentioned trip to Knoxville (which you’ll also read more about).  Again, nobody was getting paid for their efforts.
  • Most popular areas of the city are to the point where they resemble the New Orleans French Quarter.  One establishment after another, with high priced drinks, wall to wall people and blaring cover music, which again is being played for tips.  In fact, I’ve seen smaller crowds in New Orleans.

I can’t say I was surprised by any of this, because I had talked to some local artists prior to coming.  I knew the business and the economy of the business were in complete disarray.  What I didn’t know was the true extent of it.  There don’t appear to be any green pastures for talent to thrive in.  Being unique or original seems to be frowned upon throughout the city.  With that being said, I’m sure there are some venues that look for original music, but they’re impossible to find or stumble upon, and are few and far between.

What struck me hardest was the attitude of resignation exhibited by most of the musicians I encountered in Nashville.  They are trying hard and playing their butts off, but you can tell they aren’t able to emotionally connect to their audience, not able to showcase their own music, and resigned to playing Johnny Cash covers in an attempt to gather enough money to pay the bills.  The dreams slowly fade from sight a little more every day, but the passion for the craft forces them to continue on, in the hopes that the dream is around the next corner.  I wasn’t prepared for this, and it is something that will haunt me as I get ready to return home.

It’s no secret that the entire music industry is stacked against the new, original artists, who try everything in their power to get just a little exposure to the beautiful sounds they create.  There is hope, but not through the channels they may have used a decade ago.  Sadly, I don’t see Nashville being one of those opportunities for many.  Fortunately, the state of things in Nashville has strengthened my desire to help these artists through the newer avenues available to them.

Great musicians have the chance to succeed, just not here.

Am I Willing To Be A Crumb?

To say that the last six months have been a whirlwind for me would be a huge understatement.  Hundreds (if not thousands) of hours combing the internet, looking for the next great group of musical performers and trying to spread the word about those I have already found.  My entire life, my entire routine has been forever altered by this maniacal drive to help indie musicians get to the next level and be able to succeed.  I know that I fall far from my personal goals with all this, but I continue on, in the hopes that just one thing I do can help the career of a single musician in some small way.  It is that hope that keeps me going, and it prevents me from just closing up shop and fading into the background (which has crossed my mind more than once).

Just last night, my wife commented on how I have changed as a person, how my mood changes when I put on the headphones, the smile that overtakes my face when listening to my indie music.  I often worry about what she thinks about my endeavor, as it does occupy a very large chunk of my time, time that we could be doing other things.  Her support of my ‘hobby’ is critical to its success.  I’m smart enough to recognize that this is not something that will ever make me rich financially, but rather something that enriches me personally.  I do what I do for the love of the craft and a love of the art form.  Nothing more, nothing less.  Of course, there are those fantasies of “hitting it big” and becoming the next huge social media influencer, someone who’s name is known and opinion is constantly sought after.  But those dreams are met with the very real understanding that obscurity is the more likely option, and I’m fine with that.  In effect, I have modeled myself after the life of the typical indie musician.

I’ve been doing this long enough to realize that while there may be visions of wealth and popularity running through the brains of many of the musicians I follow, the sad reality is most of them will never know that success on a scale large enough to financially survive on.  The art they love so much and work tirelessly to perfect will never occupy a spot bigger than a serious hobby in their lives, something they devote countless hours to when they are not working to pay the bills.  It doesn’t take a doctoral economist to understand that the entire musical microcosm is in serious need of a financial facelift, but that is a topic for another article down the road.  Suffice it to say the vast majority of those who create and perform do so solely to express themselves and the contribute to the art.  They do what they love.  I do what I love.  Life is good for all of us.  No matter how frustrating it can be at times, we all continue on, in the hopes of making a difference.  But it also begs the question- what if we were all to just throw our hand up in the air and say, “Forget it”?

That may seem like a silly situation, and you would be correct in that assumption.  The great majority of musicians I encounter are simply not capable of walking away.  For some, they have tried and failed miserably, going right back to the routine of constant practice and playing the local VFW halls to get exposure.  They can’t walk away, because their music is a vital part of their very being.  Hell, I tried to put it behind me, and yet here I am, a part of the music world once again.  I don’t perform (I learned some time ago that performing was not my place), but I have found a place where I can contribute (hopefully) to the success of others in my own small way.  For the true musician, life does not exist without music.  But the world of music extends much further than the musicians themselves.  There is an entire ecosystem of support, promotion and engagement that is vital to the continuation of today’s music.  And it is to those people that I direct the question, “Are you ready to suffer along side of the musicians you support?”

Today’s music world is a tangle of very disjointed, seemingly opposing and competing forces.  There are thousands of bloggers like myself and probably ten times as many outlets where music can be heard.  The days of the big media outlets are being replaced by a group of smaller entities, who’s reach may not be as wide, but who’s passion for the art exceeds that of the mainstream by a factor of a hundred times.  And despite the appearance of competition, I find that the entire community is comfortable and eager to be working toward the same cause- promoting indie music and doing whatever necessary to help these incredible artists succeed.  The movement is bigger than any single piece of the pie, but the pie is not complete without the efforts of every single piece.  Honestly, the pie is made up not of pieces as we would normally think, but rather a collection of thousands (if not millions) of individual crumbs that complete the bigger picture.  Lose enough crumbs, and eventually there is no pie left to dine on.  In order for any of this to show any kind of success, we need as many crumbs as possible to complete the pie.

The role of the non-musician in this movement can be extremely frustrating at times (if not completely frustrating most of the time).  We worry about how impactful our reach is.  We worry about how effective our method of communication is.  We worry about our abilities to truly drum up support for the musicians we have come to love.  But, despite all of the worrying, we do each make a difference, in our own small way.  The frustration and worry is counter balanced by the smallest of ‘thank you’s’ received from those we treasure most, and any measure of ‘success’ needs to use this as the standard.  The goal is not to conform to any standards or sets of rules, but to create the kind of commotion that draws peoples’ interest, which then draws attention to the artists we are all so desperately trying to bring attention to.  Much like the musicians, we have made a conscious decision to not conform and to do everything we can to create a new mainstream, one that highlights the true talent in the music world.

So, I implore those that support these incredible artists to dedicate every second to being a crumb.  The world is hungry for great music, and the pie needs to be as big as humanly possible to satisfy that hunger.  As frustrated as I get, and as defeated as I sometimes feel, I am happy to be a crumb, doing my very small bit for the greater good.  I’ll never apologize for how I do it, and I’ll be very happy with any positive results, no matter how small they may be.  I’m in it for the long run.  Are you?