Monday, August 22, 2016

Independent Share And Dave's Space Place On Hiatus

There comes a time when I must put several things “on hold” and focus on what matters most.  Several projects need my attention at the moment and one of them is taking classes online for work related purposes (big data, data science and business intelligence).  The other projects are video and music (writing) related and I need to focus on these right now. 

So, what does this mean? 

As of this moment and until the end of October 2016, Independent Share and Dave’s Space Place will be going on hiatus.  I will be returning at that time with full shows and hopefully a little surprise or two on my show anniversary for Independent Share.  I’m taking the time to organize my unorganized indie library of music which has grown substantially.  I’m also hoping to take care of a bunch of backlogged items, like my websites and uploading past shows to MixCloud. 

I have been struggling with this decision over the past few months.  Having internet outages and health issues were not part of this decision.   Thanks to Comcast for messing everyone in the Chicago area up for the last two months while they retrofit their ancient hardware to handle gigabit internet that is now available for a hefty price.  Way to go Comcast.  My main decisions are my present work projects and my future in the areas that I want to pursue for the rest of my career in IT.  I’m very excited about this and it has renewed and refreshed my love for all things data. 
This does not negate my need for all things music and radio in the future.  This break will allow me to get organized and be able to maintain the shows with little or no interruption in the future.  There is a method for the madness here and the surprise I am planning for the shows will be epic in my eyes.  So hang in there with me. 

I will be back. 

Everyone have a peaceful last summer hurrah and welcome the colors of fall.  I’ll see you in November. 

Peace,

Dave Davis
www.independentshare.com

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Stacy Swinford - Lady Avalon

Okay boys and girls, let me tell you a story about a great songwriter and story teller.

Stacy Swinford is one of those indie artists that needs to be heard on a national level.  She also needs to be standing on the stage at the annual Americana Music Awards.  This is the kind of album that needs a statue awarded to the album, the songwriter, the engineer, the arranger and the album cover picture.

I have had Lady Avalon for quite a while now and have had it on my list to review since then.  I needed the time to fully sit with the album and give my thoughts and feeling about this masterpiece.  I know I've written some other album reviews that have come out since this one, but this one needed my full attention of time to sit and kind of "meditate" with each track to give you my take on it.

From the very first time I heard the opening notes I felt like a movie screen opened in front of me and stories were being played on the screen in full vivid color.  Not many artists can pull this off naturally and not many have the talent for it.  Stacy's voice is silky smooth and natural, with perfect vocal control and a very hypnotic and soulful quality that carries you from chapter to chapter in the tales that she spins.

Every song on this release emits a magical tone.  The layers are perfectly done.  The arrangements are just amazing.  This is how an album should be recorded and performed.  Each piece has its place and is not over powering.  Each instrument plays off the other.  When I hear something like this, it's not about the ego, it's about the joy of music and the telling of a tale.

The album is produced by her extremely talented husband, Steven Swinford.  Steven also plays Acoustic, Electric and Nylon Guitars along with Bass, Keyboards, Percussion, Steel Guitar, Mandolin, Dobro and Backing Vocals.  That just blows me away.  Other great musicians on this album are:

Zoe Kohen Lee plays Cello
Laraine Kaiser Viazovstev plays Violin and Viola
Nina DeGregoria plays Violin
Mike Zrebe plays Drums
Jake Cox plays Piano and did the String Arrangements for "Jupiter", "Lady Avalon" and "Amanda"

All of the songs were written by Stacy except "Child of Steel" written by Rosanne Cash and "Wistful" written by Steven Swinford.

So come take a journey with me through the album of Lady Avalon, which can be purchased via stacyswinford.com along with other excellent music.  The album is also available on Amazon and iTunes, just click on the links.

  1. Wistful - This soulful opening sets the mood for the album.  Sometimes instrumental songs starting off an album do not fit the rest of the songs on the album, but this one does.  Beautiful guitar playing with an absolutely haunting melody, just takes you back to a Medieval setting.  
  2. Lady Avalon - Title track and one of my favorites on the album.  Stacy takes a spin on what should be the soundtrack to The Mists of Avalon.  The drums set the tone for the story when they come in after the beautiful opening.  This has a cool Celtic feel throughout the whole song.  In the break coming back into the last chorus the strings give me shivers (in a good way) and the ending is beautiful.  I can't say enough about the beauty and smooth quality of Stacy's voice.  It's very hypnotic.
  3. Love is Magic - I love the harmonies on this song in the chorus.  The hook is there and the lyrics are very cool.  The little guitar solos throughout the song are just freaking awesome.  The message is clear when you listen to the song.  Love, magic, Illusions, smoke and mirrors says it all on a deep level. 
  4. Marionette - A haunting little piano at the beginning for a hauntingly beautiful song.  This is another one of my favorites on the album.  I love how this song builds over its 3 minutes and 41 seconds.  The harmonies layer, the piano comes in more and more and the story seems to get a little sadder but still beautiful.
  5. Amanda - Simple and beautiful song with a powerful message.  "The sun will shine, the rain will fall, the days go by, and we won't change it at all." the messages in these stories are wonderful.  
  6. Wellington Brakeman - Storytelling at its best! Based on a true story.  I love the feeling of this song.  The driving guitar each time it comes in adds power to the story as it builds.
  7. Jupiter - A song about Stacy's hometown and the need to go back home again.  This is my favorite track of the album.  It really is hard to pick an overall favorite, but this has been mine.  I also consider this a homecoming winter holiday song.  So it gets played a lot around the Christmas holiday season on my show and around the house.  It just has that warm "getting back together with everyone" feeling to it and the longing that we all have for home at certain times in our life.   More beautifully arranged strings here as well.  You can see why I really enjoy Stacy's storytelling. 
  8. Castaway - this is a hidden little gem on the album.  I'll let the lyrics speak for themselves.  Love the strings on this song.  I love the line "In this moment I have, found myself and I am, someone else, without you." I love it when someone finds the power to move on after being castaway. It’s a great end to the song.
  9. Your Indifference - Another favorite song on the album.  "Your lack of action speaks so loud and clear." Kind of says it all.  Love the mandolin strumming away in the background and then the banjo comes in and kicks it with the piano and drums.  When the beat picks up in the middle of the song, you just start singing along, whether you know the lyrics or not.  When Steven kicks in with the lead guitar part, my head is bobbin (well I can't say banging, because it's not that kind of song).  This has a powerhouse ending for sure.
  10. Luanne -  When I first heard this tune, I saw the tribute video that Stacy had done.  I was like…whoa!  I know her! I've always been a big fan of Luanne Oakes and her teachings.  I had no idea that Steven had recorded her programs that I listened to.  I also had no idea that she had passed away.  They were really close to her and this song is a beautiful tribute to their friendship with her.  This is another favorite tune on the album.  It always seems to bring a tear to my eyes when I listen to it and as I write this.  Beautifully written and sung.  A true tribute to her teachings. 
  11. Child of Steel - Not much to say about this song, other than a stellar performance of a Rosanne Cash song. I love the arrangement here.  All of the beautiful instrument layers going on are very touching.
  12. Out of Our Hands - God, I love the lyrics to this song.  Another favorite.  This is very deep philosophically.  The chorus is just perfect.  "The wind brought you back home again."  Everyone will have their own interpretation here, but I think I "get it". The sense of someone being there after they are gone form this plane of existence.  Stacy can correct me if I'm wrong here, but that's what I'm feeling.
  13. Reprise - A nice instrumental end that has such rich bluegrass feel to it that covers the main themes of the album.  Sits beautifully poised to conclude this album.
So there you have it folks.  My take on the journey of Lady Avalon.  You can now see why this is one of my favorite albums in my indie collection.  One that I carry with me on my devices so I have it to listen too whenever I need some peace and wonderful storytelling.  Music is the healer and this album heals on so many levels.  Takes you from love to sadness to redemption to beauty to introspection and back to love again.  I hope that you find that in this music, like I do.  I also hope that you pick this up for yourself.  Supporting indie artists is our future.  The industry is glut with under talented over paid muck.  The true talent is hidden in the interwebs of music that is available to buy and support and hopefully keep artists like Stacy Swinford writing and singing and producing more beautiful music.

Stacy's written newer singles that are out on her site as well.  Check them out.  You won't be disappointed.  Stop by Independent Share, starting the 4th of July 2016 at 8 PM Eastern Time on Show number 116, as I start rotation on this great album once again and as I do a segment I have not done in a while called Artist Spotlight where I spotlight the artist and at least three of their songs.  I hope that you'll join me for this.  

Here is a video for the title track "Lady Avalon":


Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Marketing and PR

Waxing philosophical this morning.   Indie music business.  This is your business, your brand and you as an artist.  You need to make yourself shine through all of the muck and bland stuff that is out there in the mainstream. You need to burst forth onto the scene just to get a few measly likes on your Facebook page or follows on that Twitter account.  Each button push is like a trophy gathered in continual onslaught of war on music and fighting the good fight of getting your hard work into the ears of thousands to spread your message.  I see it all day and every day. I live it as an artist myself.  I receive a good amount of music for people crying out for airplay.  You can see who is really working their music and who is not.  I become amazed that some people don't give care enough to who represents them.

Research your marketing and PR.  Don't buy into the promises but actually do some research on the internet for how these companies perform.  Especially if they are claiming what they do offer and have testimonials.  I receive a certain company's press releases every day and usually about 10 separate emails for varying artists.  They send a great paragraph of what this artist is about and the links to all their sites except an actual Electronic Press Kit or somewhere I can download their release so that I can actually play them.  I'm a radio station; I play music.  I can't be the only one out there doing a radio show, who has run into this issue.  I still open their emails every day in hopes that one day, there might be a link to the artist's EPK or dropbox.  Not one link.  I decided to save their emails off to a folder to count how many I have received from them over the last year.  The tally is 2,193 emails this morning.  All different artists paying for PR from this company.  These are PR emails that are sent out to industry lists, but mainly radio.  Nothing sent to people who might actually hear the music.  Do I have time to chase down these 2,193 artists to hear their music through their sites and then hunt the artist down to get them to send me a track or two, so that I can play them for the world to hear?  NO.  My time is precious.  If I were doing a show every day and was getting paid for it, I might have a tiny bit of time to go after 1% of these people.  But, I don't get paid for this.  I pay to do this and I do it once a week.  I focus on putting together a quality show and am very picky about who I play on that show because my main resource, time, is very limited.

I work with several companies that promote and market the right way.  What is that?  Well, there are a bunch of ways to get the material to me.


  1. Dropbox - or something similar like Live drive or Google drive.  Where the artist can share out a folder of their album, EPK, singles, pictures, bio, one-sheets.  Anything they want, to get the word out to the radio stations that can play them.  Very effective.
  2. WeTransfer - you can drop a big file on someone with this tool.  Whole albums or singles.  Your choice.  You set expirations dates. (you can on dropbox too).  But herein lies the issue with this tool.  Expiration dates.  Sometimes I will received these links, but I might not get to my email backlog (and it gets quite huge sometimes) for a few months.  Guess what expires.  I don't get the WeTransfer I don't get the download and someone isn't getting listened too or played.  So please people, use this as a way to transfer files immediately, not for "hey, take a listen".  I guarantee you are losing your audience with this if it's used incorrectly.
  3. Bandcamp - I love this form of transfer.  If you give the DJ a download code.  They can download the album, put it in their collection and comment or review it at a later date.  I do this.  I download the artist.  Listen to them.  Pick a track or two to feature and also work through the album on the air over time.  I'll go back and choose my favorite track and write a sentence about them.  How not to use Bandcamp:  
    • "Listen to our album and let us know which track you'd like"  sorry, don't have time for this game.  
    • "Please help us by buying our album and playing it on your station"…sorry, don't have the money to do this.  I'm not rich. I may buy one album a month because that's all I have for disposable income.  Plus, I'm a radio station, whether you think I am or not, I shouldn't have to "pay to play" your music.  Nor should you have to pay to get played.  This is supposed to be a symbiotic relationship.  
    • "Our album is free, so download it here" as a Name Your Price download.  Here's what's wrong with that for DJs.  One, I can't put it into my collection when I go after it.  It might get lost in the din of "so many downloads" that I don't get to it right away.  Two, Bandcamp spams me with your future releases.  They don't do that with the download codes.  
    • "Subscribe to me for 25$ a year and you can download and air anything you want!"  NO, no, No and NO.
  4. SoundCloud - only good if you are going to include a download button.  If you don't and I open it to listen to your track and this is the only link you provide in the email.  You go into a folder called "follow up later".  Guess what?  I haven't looked in that folder in over a year.  So I'm not chasing you down to get your music.
  5. Email files.  Yes! Send a track or two.  Make sure I have your Twitter and Facebook page links.  Facebook is a must.  Twitter accounts, only if you have one.  Twitter is a great way to connect for musicians and fans.  I know a lot of people hate it or don't have one, but if you are serious about marketing with stations out there, you REALLY need to make the jump into 140 characters.  It's the truth.  Where this medium of submission fails?
    • a. Sending WAV files.  WAV's are great.  They are the best quality.  But if you didn't metatag your WAV when you created it in your recording software.  I don't know the album, artist, date recorded or composers.  I then have to open up software to convert your WAV into MP3 so I can actually tag it for play.  I have to number your entire album and tag it.  How long does THAT take? About 20 minutes to convert and tag an entire album.  Needless to say, I don't do this anymore.  MP3 320 is the way to go.  Most radio stations broadcast at 128kbps.  The crap streams like BlogTalkRadio broadcast at 64 or 48kbps.  They keep saying they are going to 128, but I'll believe that when I see it.  Plus they are expensive!!  But that's another article.  
    • b. Sending MP3 files with no metadata.  Kids, tag your music.  Enough said.  If I have to go and tag it for you, it's not making it into rotation for a month or so.  
    • c. Send MP3's that are NOT locked down.  I'll get files that someone who uses ReverbNation.  RN locks their attributes.  No metatags, no play.  Because the information gets tagged in the playlist on the website and if you don't have any info, no one is going to know when you were played on the show and the only time someone is going to know is if they listen to the whole show and hear me back announce it.  Most DJs don't even deal with the tagging.  I try my best to tag ones that aren't tagged, but in this case, it's a waste of effort.  TAG YOUR MUSIC!
  6. Spotify links.  Nope, nope, NO and a whole lot of nope.  Why? How am I supposed to download that?  How am I supposed to play it.  Oh, I have to listen to you on Spotify, then contact you and beg you to send me a track so that I can play you.  Nope.
  7. YouTube.  See Spotify.  Sorry, I'm a radio station, not a TV station.  People think, "oh, you can just play it over the air from the video link…" no, I can't.  Plus it’s a violation of YouTube's TOS for anyone to do so, even if they have that ability.  Also it's a violation of TOS if you download using a tool and then play the track.  Oh and if they catch you, you bypass the 3 strike rule and your bannd for life. Not just your channel name but your IP address.  Yeah.  
  8. Specialty services for promo.  I love some of these.  They offer great avenues of delivery.  Haulix is the best.  The promoters I receive Haulix links from, I love. Some have their own "home-grown" sites, which are great as well.  But some also limit the time in which you can get an artist's promo, which is poor.  Expire them after 6 months, not 2 weeks please.  Or they don't get played.  All the folks I deal with through Haulix, send out reminders for their artists every other week and their promos are available for at least two months if not six months.  


So, that's a lot of information to soak in, but it's been buzzing in the back of my brain for a while.  I get frustrated when I'm checking in music, because of some of these very things.  I download artists and create folders for check in by date.  Each artist gets a folder under the date of the check in folder and then sits there till I can put them in rotation.  I may only play an artist once when I premiere them.  Especially if it's just a single.  Sometimes I repeat.  I get so many new artists that it's hard to repeat sometimes.  When I receive great support from the PR for an artist, where the PR person shows up to the shows, I will play that artist more often.  If the artist themselves show up, I will do my best to play them again.  My playlists are pretty set in stone for the show, because I have a lot of people to get through.  But there are times that I make exceptions and play someone who shows up because I just like to make that artist feel at home on my show and I truly want to support them.

If you are a PR person and are requesting that I play your artist, that's fine, I will play them.  Do I expect you to show up for the shows?  How can I expect that?  I think it shows that you are serious about your artist if you do.  The UK folks I cut a serious break about this, because they are asleep when I am on the air.  The American PR…yeah, I think you should be showing up at least once and that should be when I am premiering your artist.  I've only had issue with a few PR people who have not done this.  Especially when it comes to making a big deal out of me playing their artist.  They might plug it once or twice on Facebook, or send out a few tweets, but nothing says support like you being there and finding out what people in the chat room are saying about the song being played.  A few other tips for PR folks:

  1. One thing that requires some finesse is feedback.  Listen for responses.  People in chat will usually say something about the song that's playing without being asked or coaxed into response.  
  2. Stick around a while.  Don't just show up for the song and disappear.
  3. Comment and support some of the other music being played.  I get a lot of great responses from other artists in the room over people being played.  It's great feedback for everyone.  And great networking.  Plus it builds your rep as someone who cares about the music in general and not just fulfilling an obligation to be there. I want people to have fun and enjoy themselves at my show.  
  4. The more you share on social media, the more people will at least tune in for a bit.  If they tune in and like what they are hearing, they will usually come back and see what else is playing or stick around to hear more music that they've never heard before.


So there you have my take on what it's like day in and day out of running this little show I do.  I work this show at least 15 to 20 hours a week preparing it; sometimes more.  I love what I do.  I'm passionate about it.  I'm really passionate about getting new music heard.  People deserve to get their art and creativity heard.  Music is healing.  Doesn't matter what genre.  Some people heal from listening to death metal.  That's why I play all genres.  Everyone needs to be heard.  Get it to me so I can get you heard.  Just take a few minutes to get it to me in the right way so I don't have to run around getting it all together for you.  I want to spend my time sharing it and talking about it, not tagging, renaming files, converting it from WAV to MP3 and all points in between.

And to those PR people that think that hiding your artist behind a wall of websites and pages and emails without getting tracks to a radio station to play them.  You need to rethink your strategy.  It's only hurting them and in the long run, hurting you.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Great New Releases From High Desert Sound and BlueFreya.com

Straight out of the High Desert Sound studios in New Mexico this week, come three brand new releases on BlueFreya.com.

I don't say enough about these guys.  From the fledgling episodes of Independent Share, to the shows that I produce today.  I always have a place in my playlist for these folks.  Why?  Because not only does their music rock and in many cases, rock hard, but they have written some of the best metal and rock I've heard in years.  The range from progressive metal to space rock to Viking metal to haunting melodies and riffs, have always filled my ears with pleasurable sounds.  Yeah, I know, you're thinking, "Viking metal? Pleasurable sounds?"  You know, the death metal voice might be something grating to some, but in the realm of telling the story, it really does grow on you.

They reside on BlueFreya.com.  Blue Freya Media has been a home to many indie metal acts over the years and is run by Karl Lean.  Distribution through BlueFreya has placed them in the major retail outlets like iTunes and Amazon as well as Spotify.  Order it from anywhere, but also, you can order it directly from BlueFreya.com.  This not only helps the band but helps the label thrive.  When you order through the outlets, the convenience is great for some, but also takes away from the indie labels and artists out there.  I have preferred to order from where it best supports the artist and the label alike.  I suggest purchasing these from BlueFreya.com, always.  Check out some of the other bands available on the site, because there is a lot of great music to be found outside of the four stellar releases I am going to share with you here.  Three brand new and one sort of brand new release.

Onto The Releases!

First, let's talk about the super-group project of Tornatil.  Formerly started as Pathless Land.  This project features Richard J. Baysinger on guitars, piano, fretless bass and drums, S. Lee Baysinger on vocals, Eric Confer (aka Xaoslord) on guitar and keyboards and Daron Olson on bass.  This group brings together the best of Fateless Tears (the former project of Richard and S. Lee) killer guitar riffs from Richard and S. Lee's haunting vocals and lyrical storytelling with Xaoslord's signature keyboards and lead guitars.  Daron and Richard drive home the backend bass and Richard kicks the beat home on drums.  "Crawling in the Aquarium" was an epic first release from these folks, but the self-titled EP being release on BlueFreya takes it up a notch in quality of playing and songwriting.  "Wall" has become my favorite song on this album.

Second up is a brand new release from Xaoslord.  With "Everything Dies", Eric takes us on yet another journey.  Introspective at times, but a down-right sonic masterpiece again.  I get lost in his music.  From the sweeping synthesizers and arpy passages to the driving lead guitar stories that paint my eardrums with their voices calling out of the darkness.  Eric takes me to places that are visually pleasing and audibly exciting at times and touching at other times.  My first exposure to this album was via an early release track that Eric sent me called "Glide".  I've played it on several different shows now.  Independent Share, Dave's Space Place and Dave's Deep Space Place.  It doesn't have the driving guitar of most Xaoslord pieces, but it builds over a period of time and is both meditative and soothing.  I feel as if I am gliding down the musical star stream in front of me while listening to the music.

Thirdly, a brand spankin' new release from the guitar master Richard J. Baysinger.  I've loved everything Richard has released.  I'll say this again about him.  His songs are not only beautifully written in structure and theory, but they kick ass on so many levels.  In today's music market, there are a plethora of solo guitarists to choose from and listen too.  Most leave me dry and empty.  Not just from a song writing perspective, but from a recording angle as well.  Obnoxious, tinny, poorly recorded messes of yuck.  Not to mention the over exaggeration of guitar masturbation of some over bloated egos.  Ugh.  Enter Richard J. Baysinger's music.  It's always a breath of fresh air.  Killer recording as well. I also find that the melodies have me humming them later on in the day.  I find myself pulling up his tracks on my phone while I'm driving, because great music helps to take your mind off of bad traffic.  It really does.  So, let's talk about the latest release, "Feminosity".  It covers a lot of different genres.  The album, itself, is a celebration to the women who have had a major impact on Richard's life.  Including the 4 tracks that he has named specifically.  It also debuts a great song which I have been playing for a while now on Independent Share called "Desert Sky (Susan's Song)" in which Richard sings a love song to his wife.  His voice has a hint of many artists, but is uniquely his own.  Something I hope that he explores more of in the future.  I love the song and his vocals!  Keep it up man!  The rest of this album is chalk full of great music.  I've only just received this a few days ago and have listened through a few times, but I know it's not only going to be a favorite release now, but will be played in heavy rotation on Independent Share.

Last, but definitely not least, is an album which was released last year by the other great project that Richard and Daron produce.  Viggenblot is not just another death-metal band, it IS Viking Metal.  The stories that come out of these guys are epic tales, as well they should be, because when hasn't a tale told by Vikings not been epic.  The latest release to grace our ears is called "Valediction in Frost" kicks ass from the very opening track "To Breathe No More" to the last track "Cold Frailty", which is my personal favorite.  The story revolves around the Svalbard Global Seed Vault and how it plays a huge role in coming global climate changes.  While you're at BlueFreya.com, grab the other great releases from Viggenblot.  "Barriers" and "Last Song of Sigrid" are two of my favorite albums from these guys.

To sum it all up.  Four excellent releases coming out of High Desert Sound.  Go grab this great music from BlueFreya.com.  You won't be disappointed.  Support these great indie artists so that they can keep creating and exposing the world to their talents.  Music keeps the world in motion.  Help keep the world in motion and these artists thriving.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Steven Swinford - Ode to Joy

I love Christmas music.

I especially love when a guitar virtuoso, like Steven Swinford, does one.  I'm not talking Gary Hoey; although, his Christmas albums have been descent.  I'm talking about someone who knows their instrument inside and out and can make it sing like no other can.  Tuck Andress has a great Christmas album and so do many other guitar players, but I'm always finding something is missing in those albums.  Whether it be passion for the songs they are playing, or just going through the motions to kick out a product.  I love simple and beautiful arrangements when it comes to guitar and Steven Swinford has hit the mark with this release of "Ode to Joy".  I have only smiles when I listen to this gem.  I have been stuck on two albums this season and this is one of the albums that I keep listening too over and over again.  That says a lot, because I listen to a LOT of music not only for the shows I produce, but just for pleasure.

Track 1 - O Little Town of Bethlehem - Simple arrangement and the guitar just sings beautifully.

Track 2 - Bring the Torch Jeanette Isabella - Again, just stunning playing going on here folks. I play guitar and I so wish I could play like this.  This is one of my favorite Christmas songs.

Track 3 - Hark the Herald Angels Sing - This song is elevated to another level when the strings come in.  They fill in from an Americana/Folk point of view to a full string quartet, which is absolutely beautiful.  Laraine Kaizer plays all of the violins, violas and cello parts on this release.

Track 4 - I Saw Three Ships - This song is hard to play on the piano,  I can't imagine what it takes to play on the guitar.  Then Steven, his wife Stacy Swinford and Morgen La Civita come in on vocals towards the end of the song. What a great surprise to hear them all singing together.

Track 5 - While He Lay Sleeping - This is a Steven original piece.  Beautiful song.  I love the percussion and what sounds like a mandolin in the background.  I think the title is perfect.  You get that sense that someone is watching someone silently and peacefully sleeping and the person is grateful for having them in their life.

Track 6 - Joy Medley - Yet another classic, that is incredibly hard to play on the piano and the finger picking that is going on in this rendition is masterful.  A beautiful arrangement once again.  A nice tie back to the original run with the harmonic.  The break into Ode to Joy in the middle is perfect.  I can't say that that it leans towards a Country genre.  This is more like a Bard's tale or Troubadour style of playing.  A Medieval court maybe? either way.  I love this medley.

Track 7 - Good King Wenceslas - Beautifully plucked harmonics on this song.  Another finger exercise endurance trial, but a pretty one, nonetheless and another favorite Christmas song for me.

Track 8 - Angels We Have Heard on High - Another pretty arrangement of a timeless classic. And yet another song that I love to hear played on the guitar.

Track 9 - O Come All Ye Faithful - I love the feel of this arrangement. Simple but sweet.

Track 10 - Silent Night - This track opens like it's a deep meditation and then goes into almost a  "riding on the wagon trail" song.  It has strings and the right percussion to make it sing.  This could also be right out of the "Cold Mountain" soundtrack.  It has that Civil War bluegrass feel to it.  I love it.  I also love Jake Tanner's harpsichord playing on this song.  What a great mix!

Track 11 - Kings Medley - Oh I love this medley too.  Even if I'm being a little kid again and singing "we three king's of orient are...puffing on a loaded cigar".  Oh to be young again.  I like the way Steven takes classic Christmas songs and intertwines them into a medley arrangement of his own.

Track 12 - O Holy Night - Another excellent version of O Holy Night.  I've heard twelve new ones this year and this now this has to be one of my favorite renditions.  I love when the violin comes in and makes my spine tingle and heart sing.

Track 13 - For Unto Us a Child is Born - A great rendition of an arrangement done by the London Symphony Orchestra. Beautiful guitar playing once again on this track.  Plus a return of Stacy and Morgen singing on this track towards the end. Everyone singing in harmony.  Just beautiful.

Track 14 - The First Noel/Joy to the World - Solo guitar. Simple and beautiful.  This is the last track on the album.  Last but not least.

This is a grand entry into my Christmas library. I love everything that Steven produces.  I'll highly recommend any of his other releases as well. You need to go grab this one of your holiday music list. Get a CD copy while they last!  It truly is a wonderful album all the way through and back again.  Put this in your playlist and just press the repeat button and kick back.

Links for Steven Swinford:

Steven Swinford on Bandcamp, CD Baby, Amazon and iTunes 

CD Copy while they last, are available here

Swinford Music

Here is "O Little Town of Bethlehem" from YouTube



Saturday, November 21, 2015

Jennifer Thomas - "Winter Symphony"


Truly an album worth owning.  And I do mean that.  OWNING.  Add this to your Christmas music playlist and play this every year.  Heck, play it all Winter long, because this is a

"Winter Symphony

This is a fun review to be able to write.  I'm writing this paragraph last as an overview.  Why?  I wanted to capture the emotions and feelings that I had when I first listened to this release and get them down in their raw and honest form, like I did with Jennifer's last album "Illumination".  (another album, that if you don't own it, you should)

Track 1 - Angels We Have Heard On High (feat. The Ensign Chorus)

What a way to make an entrance.  Seriously.  From beginning to end, I have copious ripples of goose flesh.  Chills and thrills and might I add some heavy WOW moments.  I love the arrangement as it builds, but when the chorus enters the scene.  Oh my.   At one point I felt myself tearing up.  Right when the theme for "Ave Maria" started to roll into the middle section, then full bloom back into "Angels We Have Heard On High".  Stellar track.

Track 2 - Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy

This arrangement should have been in a Harry Potter movie right smack dab in the middle of the Christmas segment.  Just saying.  It takes you on the whimsical journey of the Sugar Plum Fairy.  I can almost see the dancers on stage.  But when the track goes on a romp through a waltz-out-of-control (and that's a good thing), I see the dancers take flight across stage and everything is strewn with ribbons and bows and snowflakes falling.  It's just a happy-go-lucky-whimsical jaunt through the music and that just makes me very happy.  I've only ever heard someone else do a waltz-out-of-control and that's Hanz Zimmer in the soundtrack for Gladiator, in the opening battle scene with the Germans.  It was perfect there and it's perfect here.

Track 3 - Carol of Bells

Well.  I have to say.  Carol of Bells is not one of my favorite songs.  I have a friend who has done a really cool blitzed out dance version of it that made it not repetitive at all.  But this version has now become my favorite version of the song and has made me like the song even more.  It's a beautiful arrangement and not repetitive at all.  I love the swells and rolls of the melody.  Just makes me want to jump in the snow and play like a kids again.  (now if you could do this to The Little Drummer Boy, Jennifer, I'd be grateful.)

Track 4 - Alleluia (feat. Felicia Farerre and The Ensign Chorus)

I just have one word for this track.  Wow.  I could just end with that, but I'll elaborate a little.  Nothing does this track justice, but to sit, listen and envelope yourself in the angelic voices of The Ensign Chorus and Felicia Farerre.  I shivered from beginning to end.  The big "love" that comes through in this track is pure passion and magical all the way.  Elegant, graceful, stunning, beautiful, passionate…and simply WOW.  Jennifer, you have written a masterpiece here.  WOW  This one brought tears to my eyes several times.

Track 5 - Ice Dance (feat. The Ensign Chorus)

Here we go again.  Goose flesh and some beautiful Elfman-ish chorus with stunning orchestral swells take me through woods with the snowflakes falling, while skating on the icy river.  Straight out of a scene from Hans Christian Anderson.  It's just what I feel folks.  Everyone is going to get a different experience from this track.  But if Tim Burton were to ever redo Edward Scissorhands?  Yep, this would be the track to consider when he's making his ice sculptures.  Again; what a beautiful arrangement.  Update to this writing: When I wrote this paragraph on this song, I didn't know where it was from.  I went and looked at Jennifer's liner notes on the writer.  It was Danny Elfman.  Ding, ding, ding.  I thought at first, maybe it was from the second Batman film with the Penguin, but I went and looked it up.  I WAS from Edward Scissorhands.  It's been over 20 years since I've seen that movie or even heard that soundtrack. For me to pick that out of thin air, is just amazing to me.  And I stand by what I said.  If they ever remake that movie.  Hire Jennifer to do the arrangements and Glen Gabriel to do the orchestration…oh and The Ensign Chorus to do the choral parts.  Phenomenal!

Track 6 - I Saw Three Ships

This arrangement starts off with a great Celtic feel and just continues through the entire song.  What a great genre fit to this classic songs.  Could almost see a River Dance going on.  Or Mr. Fezziwig dancing around his company party with young Ebenezer celebrating in early life.   Beautifully done.  This is a favorite holiday song for me.

Track 7 - Breath of Heaven

Another beautiful rendition of a gorgeous song.  Made famous by Amy Grant; this Chris Eaton song has always been a favorite one for me.  Beautiful arrangements on the orchestra and piano.  Not much to say here, but to tell you just to sit back and listen and enjoy.

Track 8 - Theme from Home Alone (Somewhere In My Memory)

Stunning arrangement here.  Jennifer's arrangement and Glen Gabriel's orchestrations.  Nothing more to say here other than…BRAVO!  Standing up and clapping at the end.  Brilliantly done.  Takes me back to when I first saw this film in the theater.  An amazing soundtrack and a perfect selection for this album.

Track 9 - What Child is This (feat. Taylor Davis)

The violin solo by Taylor Davis is stunning.  This is a beautiful and haunting arrangement.  Jennifer is playing the violin harmony on this track as well.  Shivers when both are playing.  A wonderful Celtic feel here as well.  Pulling the original English Folk style into the solo violin is truly beautiful.

Track 10 - Silent Night (feat The Ensign Chorus)

Oh my, again.  One of my favorite Christmas songs.  Such a beautiful piano arrangement, but then when Noel kicks in it sends a chill right up your spine and into your heart, you feel the warmth.  Especially when the chorus kicks back into Silent Night again.  Gorgeous!

Track 11 - Winter Symphony

We're not off this ride yet folks!  Hang on to those reigns as the horses kick into gear on the sleigh and the ride kicks into overdrive.  Barreling through the snow laden roads of the forest and then over the hills into the open, you see a field ahead with a marvelous castle in the distance and realize that you are heading for greatness and what a ride it is.  This is the title track and it will take your breath away.  I hit repeat on this 4 times, because I wanted to make sure the feeling I was getting was the same each time.  A masterpiece pure and simple.

Track 12 - O Holy Night

Another favorite Christmas song of mine.  Played with such passion and grace that it will make your heart melt.  If you've have a stressful day of Christmas shopping or just the fact that work might be getting on your nerves.  Just sit for a minute.  Close your eyes and kick back.  If this doesn't put you into a feeling of "reason for this season", then I'm not sure anything will.  This is a season of love, peace and good will towards all.  As the end of end of this song explodes,  just feel that power of love enter your heart and share that with every one you meet this holiday.  Remember what it's like to be human and be peace.  It's not about the toys, it's all about LOVE.

Wait…playback is over?  Twelve beautiful tracks.  There.  Right there.  There it is.  The replay button.  And there.  Right there, is the play button.  And, ahhhhh….there.  Track 1 starting all over again…and there…there it is.  There's all the feels.

Go buy this.  There are still physical CD copies available through Bandcamp at the time of writing this review.  You won't be sorry.  Enough of reading me ramble.  I'm going back on the journey again and again and probably all weekend too.

You can get this at iTunes, Google Play and Amazon as well.  Check out the preview video here at YouTube.

Support indie music this holiday.  You'll get awesome music and you won't be disappointed that you did.









Thursday, August 6, 2015

Angela Predhomme - Will

I have played Angela Predhomme on my show for a while now. Every release out does the last. "Will" is the latest to step up Angela's talent to a whole other level with great new music. She never ceases to amaze me with her song writing and silky beautiful voice.

I receive a lot of music submitted to me for the show and there are just those few special artists who stand out and make you go "Yeah, this one." "Will" evokes that feeling for me. This album is stellar with every song having hit potential.

From the opener "Friday Morning Sunrise" taking me on a musical journey, to the haunting melody of "Let Her Go" and closing out the album with a beautiful heart-melting song "I'm Not Ready"; about watching your child grow up and not being ready to let them go out into the world just yet; I have to highly recommend this album.

Angela's smooth and soft voice singing through the melodies is like sweet cream in your coffee. "Will" is one of those special albums that do not come around very often, so pick this up. Takes a lot to me to well up with tears in my eyes while listening to a song and "I'm Not Ready" did that to me.

Purchase "Will" by Angela Predhomme from CD Baby 

Visit Angel online here: http://www.angelapredhomme.com/


Follow her on Twitter here: https://twitter.com/AngelaPredhomme

A longer review for "Will" is being worked on, because I want give my take on the beauty of each song.