Sunday, March 29, 2009

Nouvellas live @ Crash Mansion, March 26, 2009

Went to see the Nouvellas play a live show at Crash Mansion on Thursday night, the 26th of March, '09. I've now seen them perform a number of times, and with each successive show attended, I gain a greater appreciation of what they do.

The band plays a '60s motown style, with twin dynamo lead vocalists Jamie & Leah adding a pretty/punk dancey feel to it all.

Jamie has a really powerful voice - she sings with a lotta soul - and bassist Joe is all business as he lays down a stax/funk groove.

The band was formed when members of their prior incarnation - The Dansettes - decided to split off into two band new bands. The Nouvellas were then formed.

Leah and Jamie sing a lot of their songs together - occasionally trading off on vocal lines. It is their voices combined though, that gives them their unique sound.

Guitarist Dennis and Drummer Andy complete the power-trio backbone of the band. In particular, Dennis is a most impressive musician, playing clean 60's style guitarlines, with the speed and accuracy of the best modern day guitarists around. Chatting with Dennis post-show, he confirmed a love for legendary guitarist James Burton - who played with Rick Nelson in the 50's and Elvis Presley in the 60's.

In addition to their strong, quality soulful vocals, Leah and Jamie have great style and presence. Jamie has the natural dance moves and sway, while Leah provides a looser, more casual and punkier attitude. It's a combination that appears to work. They seem to always be having fun, despite any minor snags or technical difficulties. They appear to be laughing a lot at it all.

That's not to say their music isn't to be taken seriously - because the quality is surely there.
Give a listen to an earlier recording (not mine) containing an excellent video medley of "I Got A Feeling" and "Satisfied" taken from various performances over the last year or so.

Jamie dances, while Andy and Joe lock down the groove.

Voices united in the quest for ultimate soul.

Dennis riffs away, while Leah rocks the tambourine and boots. Jamie holds a note for maximum effect.

Check out The Nouvellas at these links:

And you can check out their previous band here:

The band also has a Facebook presence:

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Jillian Rhys - live at The Saint, March 6, 2009

Two friends whose opinions I value when it comes to music had previously recommended singer Jillian Rhys to me. Taking the now all-too-easy route of checking an artist out on Youtube, I made a mental note to go see her play somewhere - sometime. After one of those same friends told me about a live show of hers he had just recently seen, I knew I had to go and check this out for myself.

Lucky for me she was playing at The Saint in Asbury Park, New Jersey on the 6th of March. So, it was there I would experience all things Jillian.

Photo by Pressley Abbott

What Jillian Rhys and her band present is what you would call "retro" music. Think 1963. Ronnie Spector, The Shirelles - one of the great branches to the roots of rock & roll music.

Listen to Jillian & her band as they play their own song titled "Hangin On":

Photo by Pressley Abbott

The live presentation of that song is done extremely well. There are many sound textures and vocal harmonies. Jillian is defintely out front and the central focus, but her band and one backup singer fill everything out quite admirably. Of particular note is the trumpet player she employs, Antonio Gambrell. This sonic embellishment gives Jillian's music a unique texture that you don't come across that often in the rock environment.

Trumpet master Antonio Gambrell,
here with bassman extraordiaire, Ron Haney.

Jillian herself is an extremely attractive woman who isn't shy about drawing attention to her obvious sex appeal. Many of her movements appear to be somewhat choreographed, but that certainly doesn't detract from the show. In fact, I would venture to say it enhances it.

Photo by Pressley Abbott
What followed was Jillian's most erotically charged song of the set. The completely seductive
"Crush Me"

"You're seconds away from putting your hands on me" she teases. Who can resist a come on like that? But then asks "how can I touch you, when your not here?" - no - I'm right here. Over here. Look - I'm waving my hand!

Photo by Pressley Abbott

As I've mentioned, the band is a tight unit that provides a perfect supporting cast for Jillian.

Photo by Pressley Abbott

Bart Shoudel not only plays all the keyboards, but is an integral part of the backround vocals (along with primary harmony vocalist Eryn Shewell.)

Photo by Pressley Abbott

Bassist Ron Haney is an energetic musical leader, who appears to be in full motion the entire show.

Photo by Pressley Abbott
Jed Higgerson manned all things guitarwise. In keeping with the "60's" sound, he had an nice and easy style that was clean with very little effects. On aforementioned "Crush Me" he provided solid rhythmic, chunky chords. What was additionally cool on this song is the last minute which has a jazzy coda of sorts. Having the benefit of repeated viewings (ah, the wonder of Youtube) I've come to really appreciate this part of the song.

Drummer Tom Cottone was quite impressive on this jazzed-up end out as well. Ripping off quick fills inbetween the rock solid beat he provided throughout the night.

Photo by Pressley Abbott

Check out the soulful dual vocals from the ladies on the happy, good-timey "Do You Ever Wonder"

Jillian's tambourine playing add more shake (to go with that shake).

The vocal hookline "this feeling I have for you" quite catchy.

Photo by Pressley Abbott

Now fully embracing the era of music this performer so accurately represent, of the Shirelles classic "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?"

This is such a great song and Jillian really does it justice. Originally recorded by The Shirelles and written by the Brill Building songwriting team of Gerry Goffin and Carole King, it went straight to No. 1 in the year 1961.

Yours truly and the one and only Laura from NJ enjoyed the show together.

We then had a quick post-show chat with the star herself.

Photo by Laura in NJ
Jillian is sweet and friendly, and it was a pleasure to meet her.

The full set list. Jillian joked about not having any paper, so wrote it all out on the back of a large cardboard advertisement.

You can find out more about Jillian Rhys and her band at:

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Mieka Pauley live at The Saint, Asbury Park, NJ

On Friday night, the 6th of March, 2009, I finally got a chance to head on down to the legendary rock club The Saint in Asbury Park, New Jersey. This venue has seen a lot of New Jersey acts play its stage, as they worked their way up through the ranks, in their quest for all things rockstardom.

It's a very cool little room in Asbury, located a few blocks away from the seaside town's boardwalk.

New to me was one of the night's featured performers - Mieka Pauley

Photo by Laura in NJ

Mieka (pronounced meeka) is a very pretty folk singer of sorts - though to simply call her a "mere folk singer" would be to do her an injustice. She's more of a slightly quirky, alternately smooth-then-raspy vocalist who has oodles of soul in her voice as well.

Some of her musical influences whose work I also admire are the likes of PJ Harvey, Jeff Buckley, Cat Power, Fiona Apple and Neko Case.

Another singer (from another era, I suppose) that popped into my head as someone who exhibited similar qualites (both vocally and in performance style) is Rickie Lee Jones.

Photo by Laura in NJ

Mieka has her own unique style and presence, however, and you can hear real attention to detail in her songwriting and storytelling.

"Oh, you're livin' the shadow - daughter," is how one emotive song starts. She begins to weave a tale where "our branches may reach up to heaven, but our roots dig where they can." How "our river is running wicked, yeah I watched it. Oh, its traveling all along your face. Baby you watched them all just sinkin -and you dove right in." On to a big chorus where "Whiskey is the Devil" is the repeated line. This is not "party" music by any means. Instead, it challenges you to think about it some.

Listen her performance of this song here:

Her band provided excellent accompaniment. In particular, her keyboard player impressed me with his fluid style and many layers of sound. Both her bassist and lead guitarist were more than competent. She does play with a drummer as well, however on this particular night, he could not attend due to prior committments.
As I've mentioned previously, her voice is alternately soft, soulful and then like sandpaper. A stylisticly unique combination. She did a song with lyrics "they're here, drink up, we're all gonna die!", which was not nearly as morbid as that sounds. In fact, its a most peppy, uptempo little number.

Photo by Laura in NJ

Check out her performance of that song right here:

I would discover later on that Mieka had won a talent competition called The Cosmo Starlaunch. I'm not surprised that she won, as clearly there is a lot of talent on display there.

More can be found out about this event, here:

During the latter part of her set, Mieka then announced she was going to do a cover song - and proceeded to take on a song that has been famously interpreted more than a few times - the Leonard Cohen classic "Hallelujah."

Listen here ask she applies her own unique interpretation and vocal inflections on this song.

Photo by Laura in NJ

Attempting a song that has been popularized by not only Mr. Cohen himself, but Jeff Buckley, Rufus Wainright and many others - you had better have the confidence to bring something unique in your interpretation. On this night, I believe she did, as it was a most impressive rendition.

For those curious about the song's possible meanings, check out this fascinating break down, analysis and discussion of it:

Meeting the Meek afterwards

Find out more about Mieka Pauley here:

Check out The Saint here:

Mieka performs next at the upcoming SXSW showcase in Austin,Texas.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Nicole Atkins live at Langosta Lounge, March 1, 2009

Nicole Atkins and her drummer Chris D'Onofrio played a little brunch gig at one of their favorite joints on the boardwalk in Asbury, New Jersey - the Langosta Lounge.

It all came about very suddenly. Nicole announced it midweek on her blogs, and fortunately I was free that day to attend. The promise was to hear some more "new songs". Who can resist that?

The Langosta Lounge is a nice looking restaurant, right on the Asbury Park Boardwalk. On entering, Nicole and her drummer Chris were set up just inside the entrance to the right. She was about to start so I grabbed a seat up close to snap some pics and capture the songs on video.

Nicole accompanies herself quite well with just an acoustic guitar. Adding Chris on "soft" drums (he used brushes) contributed just the right amount of percussive punch to the songs.

The first song I captured was this version of "Skywriters"
a great song off of her 2005 release "Party's Over".

Nic and Chris worked quite well together. You could see way they connected musically, which made the casual early afternoon performance light and breezy.

Next up was a real treat as Nicole announced a brand new never before heard song from her called "Cry Cry Cry". This was the first time she played it out in public. It's so new, in fact, that I am verboten from posting it up publicly, until all copyright issues have been worked out. I will tell you that it is yet another great new song. She was not kidding when she kept telling everyone that she's been busy "writng new songs".

Moving further into the set, Nicole dipped back again to 2005's "Party's Over" record for her emotionally charged song "War Torn".

You can see this here:

The duo then moved on to one of Nicole's more popular numbers from her Neptune City album, the good-timey "Maybe Tonight". Longtime fan's of Nicole have heard her play this many times. But each setting (and performance) is unique. Adding a new drummer playing soft brush percussion gives it just the right lift (despite Nic hitting a few "naff" chords - and laughing about it too).

Have a listen to it here:

What followed that was yet-another song that was so brand spanking new that (again) I have been sworn not to post it publicly - which, of course I completely understand. We shouldn't provide easy access to anyone that might possibly be hunting for a musical idea or creative lyrical turn. Anyway, the song is called "Civil War" and (like most Nicole songs) has a very catchy chorus.

She followed that up with a cover of the Michael Nesmith written song "Different Drum" that became one of Linda Rondstadt's greatest hits. Nicole amusingly mentioned how Mike Nesmith was her favorite Monkee because "he was the weird, quiet one" and that "he was really tall". A bit more chatter about favorite Monkee's went on, before Nicole played an effortlessly perfect version of this song.

Hear (and see) the performance here:

Nicole played two more songs - new one's that she's played at her last few gigs - "The Tower" and "Hotel Plaster"

In particular, the song "Hotel Plaster" resonates quite strongly with me. The chorus is so emotionally charged, as Nicole sings "think of me as prisoner in the hotel plaster - far from the shelter of your side". A song about the damage we do to each other in relationships, as she sings "I know we hurt each other pretty bad" and how "we broke the diamond with our bitter words." Yet, there is still a glimmer of hope as she also sings "hold on to our lives" and to "pray for answers". Coupled with a beautiful melody, the evolution of Ms. Atkins and her music is clearly on display.

You can listen to this particular version here:

Here's the setlist from the show that Nicole was sweet enough to let me have. As you can see she didn't stick to the order or even all the songs on it. It served more as a guidline or memory jogger, as she called out what she wanted to play to her drummer with her own internal sense of how the show was going (and where she wanted to take it)

One cool thing she had in her merch collection was this:

It's a "skin" that you put on your MP3 player.

I just had to have one!

Learn more about this cool Asbury Park (Jersey, man!) restaurant here:

And about the amazing Nicole Atkins here:

Shadows Lie, live at Crash Mansion, February 21, 2009

Heading out on a recent Saturday night to relatively new club Crash Mansion located in downtown NYC, I had a feeling I might be reviewing more than just the one of the bands on that night's bill.

Having checked out in advance all the bands scheduled to perform on the 21st of February, '09 as part of promotion called Gotham Rocks, I was most intrigued to see and hear Shadows Lie.

They describe themselves as a dark, intense blend of heavy guitars reminiscent of Staind, Portishead-like electronics, Days of the New type acoustic guitars, and vocal stylings ranging from Tori Amos to Incubus. The songwriting is distinctive and intensely emotional yet concise and mature at the same time.

The band was started by vocalist Kira Leigh and bassist Cary Tamura.

Rounding out the band are guitarist Frank Grullon and drummer Marco Britti.

Bassist CT is a unique and dynamic player.

I immediately noticed the 5 string bass he played.

Naturally a female fronted progressive-metal band will instantly bring to mind groups like Evanescence and Lacuna Coil

Those were definitely the two biggest bands I was thinking of while listening to them. If you're going to do this kind of music, then that's pretty much right where you want to be.

Check out this live performance:

In addition to being an outstanding bassist, CT also works as a producer and songwriter for a number of New York-based projects. He has written and produced tracks for RCA Records, DoughZone Records (Universal), TVT Records, Warner Bros Pictures, Rough Nation Films, CBS, MTV, and VH1.

Frank Grullon is experienced in playing both classical and rock guitar. His playing style fuses modern rock with electronica elements.

The ferocity of the moment.

Drummer Marco Britti was rock solid throughout the set. His bio states that he has extensive touring and recording experience all over the world with artists such as Marc Anthony and Jennifer Lopez.

Kira blends prom dresses, rock boots and glam gloves in a way that would please Courtney Love.

Shine on you crazy diamond

Catching up for a quick chat!

You can find out more about Shadows Lie here:

And more about the Gotham Rocks showcases here: