Wednesday, March 2, 2016

The Young Novelists at the KC Folk Fest

One of the performances I caught at the KC Folk Fest was by The Young Novelists.  They were new to me, so I decided to catch their set.

The Young Novelists are either a duo or a six piece full band (more on that later).  Traveling to Kansas City from their Toronto home, they were a duo, couple Graydon James and Laura Spink.  Graydon plays acoustic guitar, Laura plays various percussion and melodica (at least it looks like the melodicas I found on the Internet after Googling "wind instrument keyboard"), and they share vocals.

Their set was very entertaining, and they are an exceptionally talented young duo.  Graydon and Laura combine for very tight, beautiful harmonies, reminding me of the classic CSN sounds.  Many of the songs they performed were originals, showing a talent for heart-of-roots-music songwriting.  A show highlight, however, was a killer - Killer! - cover of "Jackson", the frenetic song made famous by June Carter and Johnny Cash.

Graydon and Laura had a great rapport with the audience, entertaining us between their songs with stories about their young son, and a recent performance at an elementary school where none of the children knew what a CD was.  It's an iPod world, folks.

The best thing about The Young Novelists, though, was the exuberance that shone from them during their set.  They play with a natural energy that wraps up an audience.  Combine this with their talent as musicians and songwriters, and you have a really great, enjoyable show.  They work hard, and they love what they do.

After the show, and after they had stowed their instruments away, I caught a moment with Laura and introduced myself, and welcomed them to Kansas City.  And, let me tell you, Laura was so nice!  We talked about their stay here in KC at the Folk Alliance conference, both this year and last.  Laura talked to me like I was an old friend - what a sweetheart!

So, I left them to finish packing up, and I wandered out to the central merch table, where Young Novelists CDs were for sale.  I picked up a copy of their most recent, "made us strangers", their 4th release.  Previously under the name "Graydon James and the Young Novelists" they had released an EP, a live album, and a studio album.  For "made us strangers", the band name changed to just "The Young Novelists".  I then took the CD back down the hall and saw Graydon and Laura signing CDs at the door, so I went back up, got autographs, and chatted with them some more.  Graydon wrote a short novel on the CD cover while I was talking to Laura about being traveling musicians while raising a child.  I finally left Laura and Graydon to tend to their Folk Alliance business, feeling great about having met such a fine, friendly musical couple.

Then, on to the CD.  Popping the CD in the player on my drive back home, I was greeted with a much fuller sound than I was expecting from the the duo that I had just seen.  It was when I got home and was able to research The Young Novelists that I found out that in addition to Graydon and Laura as the core duo, they also have an incarnation as a full six piece band.  The fuller sound on the album - drum kit, bass, electric guitar, etc. - extended and complemented the music I had heard from the duo earlier in the day.  The harmonies were still there, musically expanded with full roots-rock arrangements.  Best of all, that exuberance that made their performance so special still shines though on the studio album.

Highlights:  well, everything on the album is good.  My favorites were the opener "palindrome", "always make the mistake" with Laura singing lead, the harmonies on "hear your voice", the heavier, ear-catching "what lies ahead" featuring some great piano work by Alex Dodd, and the more melancholy-sounding "couldn't be any worse", which includes some beautiful accompanying strings.

So, now we can hope that we hear "Christmas with The Young Novelists" sometime in the near future :-)

The Young Novelists website
The Young Novelists on Facebook
The Young Novelists on Soundcloud
"made us strangers" on Amazon

And, Laura Spink says, The Young Novelists are everywhere on the internet - Twitter, Youtube, Instagram.... check them out and enjoy!

Saturday, February 27, 2016

What the Folk?

Hello good readers, and happy Winter!  We have barely had a Winter here in Kansas City, with much higher than normal temperatures all season, and a measly 5 inches of snow, total.  I've only gotten to wear my favorite Winter coat, a kick-a** Montgomery Duffel Coat, for about 4 days.  Der Bingle loves temps in the teens, and we've had very few of those this season.

But enough about the weather.  I'm going to temporarily change directions here at the ol' blog, for a handful of posts over the next few weeks.  I went to the Folk Alliance International conference's Folk Fest last week, in it's 3rd year of (at least) a 5-year run here in KC, and got to see some extraordinary performers.  A $30 ticket bought 10AM-5PM access to music on 5 stages, with performers changing each hour.  I saw and talked to some great artists, and I'm going to take the next several posts and let you all know about them.

For tonight, as an into, here are some pictures from the Folk Fest.

 From the Sunday morning gospel brunch!

Sara Morgan, Arkansas-born, now Kansas City based, with dreams of performing at the Grand Ol' Opry.

The group known as Ayllu, with performers from Argentina, Mexico, Bolivia, Peru, and midtown Kansas City.  They play South American-inspired music, and are all multi-instrumentalists, frequently within a single song.  Their set was absolutely smokin'!

Local musical extraordinaire Mikal Shapiro, playing with Ayllu.

The Young Novelists, a folk duo from Toronto.  More about them in a later post.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Loose Ends 2015 Edition

Every year I end the season with a lot of things left undone.  All unintentional, all a factor of balancing time between work, family, all the other Christmas season activities, of which there are many, and this here little blog.  Each year I get many e-mails notifying me about new Christmas music, more than I can possibly do justice to.  Usually, the earlier I get notice the better, but even then sometimes the music can get lost in the shuffle.  If an artist or publicist sends me a physical CD, I do my best to critically and intently listen and write up s good thorough review.  I think I hit 100% on that mark this year.  It's the digital music and submissions that, sadly, sometimes don't make it to the blog.  So, here in the last official post of the season, I'm going to provide some info and links about some other fine Christmas music from 2015.

First up is "On a Christmas Night" by Found Wandering.  How on Earth did this one get by?  Seriously, how?  Thank Santa for Stubby, who did a great job covering this record with his full review.  This is a great, great record.  Starting with the album art, about the best thing I've ever seen, through all 11 tracks, this is a fantastic Christmas album.  I may return to this record and give it the justice it deserves when we kick off the 2016 season.  But for now, here are links to the record and to the band's site, and the fab album cover.

"On a Christmas Night"
Found Wandering site on Bandcamp

Next up is "Christmas Crackers" by Poke Music, a collection of 26(!) songs, originals and favorites, performed by many talented artists in various styles - crooner, Elvis, Madonna "Santa Baby" style, and more.  It is a most pleasing collection of songs sure to satisfy all the Christmas music lovers out there as well as the casual holiday-time listener.

"Christmas Crackers" on Bandcamp

And now, links, links, links...

"Christmas at the Piano" by Paul Tracy  Bandcamp link
"The Angel Gabriel feat. Dave Worm" by PC Munoz   Bandcamp link
"A Colorful Christmas" by Fetal Records Music  Soundcloud link
"Merry Christmas, with Love" by Lily Lambert  Soundcloud link
"Up All Night" by The Yule Logs   YouTube link
"Christmas Time Again" by SPiN  link
"Hark the Herald Angels Sing" by Claudia Hoyser  YouTube link
"Knights in Santa's Service" by Teflon Beast  Bandcamp link
Two tunes from Loop Line

Late Breaking:  Here are a couple more I found in the inbox:

"Christmas May Have To Be Postponed" - Carly Jamison  website
"Kidnap the Sandy Claws" - Fable Cry - Soundcloud link

Whew - I think that's it.  There is some mighty fine music in this list.  2015 was a down year for commercial releases but a banner year for downloadable, off-label, independent artist music.  Slick and commercial, or filled with heart and spirit, take your pick.

Please visit these sites, listen to the music samples, and support these artists if their music moves you.
Thanks to all who visited Merry and Bright this season - I hope you had a happy and joyous Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Winter, filled with new and old music for the season.  Have a prosperous 2016, and check back here from time to time!

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Der Bingle's Best of 2015

What can be a better post on New Year's Eve than a 'best of 2015' Christmas records list?  Nothing, am I right?  Without further ado, as we bid adieu to 2015, here is my Top Christmas records of 2015:

1.  Greg Page "Here Comes Christmas!" 

You read my review - I absolutely loved this record, as enjoyable for us grown-ups as for the kids.  Full of heart and Christmas wonder.

2.  The Snow Globes "Milk and Cookies" EP.  

The Snow Globes are a local (to me) Kansas City band that forms each November, plays the heck out of Christmas music for two months, then slips away until the next year.  Somehow, I didn't find out about them until this year.  They are soooooo good.  This year, their EP, which is their 4th CD release in 5 years, gets my #2 spot.  Look for a big story about The Snow Globes here next season.  Until then, visit their website and listen to their marvelous Christmas tunes.

3.  Elizabeth Chan "Red and Green"

Honestly, as long as Elizabeth Chan keeps putting out new music year after year, her albums will keep hitting my 'best of' list.  No one embodies the true musical spirit of the holiday as much as Elizabeth.  "Christmas in the City", her 2014 single, is a Christmas classic, and the rest of the world is starting to figure that out.  I'm going to write about why this really is a Christmas classic in a post next season - I have my reasons :-)

4.  Astrocolor "Lit Up"

One of the best original interpretation albums of Christmas music ever.  It's mesmerizing.

5.  Kylie Minogue "Kylie Christmas"

2015 was a definite down year for new "big" commercial Christmas releases, with Real Gone's re-masters taking the spotlight.  But Kylie Minogue's record was a standout.  Full of energy and fun, with a smattering of unexpected guest stars (Iggy Pop, need I say more), it was a very enjoyable record.  I really don't need to ever hear "Santa Baby" or "Baby It's Cold Outside" again, but Kylie's takes on "The Most Wonderful Time of the Year" and "Christmas Wrapping" were excellent.  Get the bonus edition with the DVD, so you can look at Kylie as she sings :-)

6.  Jillaine and Jacob "Jazzy Duets for Christmas"

Sublime, reserved jazzy Christmas songs from our favorite chanteuse.

7.  India Arie "Christmas with Friends"

And what a group of friends!  Joe Sample.  Trombone Shorty.  Kirk Whalum.  A laid-back album, perfect for a relaxing evening by the fire.

8. Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings "It's a Holiday Soul Party"

Lots of press for this, and well deserved.  Joyful, stompin', shakin', party-on-dude Christmas record.

Honorable Mention: Thisbe Vos "A Jazzy Christmas"

Thisbe Vos gets an honorable mention because she topped my list last year after I got her album pre-release as a crowd-funding contributor.  The official commercial release was this year, so I decided to add Thisbe's album to the list again because it is so wonderful.  Folks, it is in my top 10 in my whole collection.  Thisbe's vocals will make your heart melt.  Sigh...

So that's the list for this year.  If I have a panic attack when I realize an omission, I'll make it up with a later post.  Follow the links embedded in the text above to visit these artists' websites.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Final Share of 2015: Medleys Galore!

Good day all, here on the 23rd of December.  Today I have my final share of the season.  This year and last, the vinyl sharing has diminished in numbers, for several reasons.  First is the omnipresent battle against time to do sharing right.  I should start preparing in about July, but that never happens.  Second is the availability of vinyl.  The thrift stores in these parts don't seem to produce the gems that other sharers find, so supply is limited.  Last, and related to the second factor, is that more and more Christmas records from the past are now available as commercially re-released CDs or downloads.  Which is really a good thing - we all love it when a classic record is re-mastered and re-released.  Good for us, good for the artists (or copyright holders), and good for Christmas music.

But, I'll still keep looking and sharing as I can.  Which brings us to today's share, "Christmas Hymns and Carols" by Bob Ralston.  This is an organ/chimes/chorus record, of which there are many, but this is a very good one.  The record consists of 10 medleys of Christmas songs, mostly very familiar tunes, but there are a couple lesser known gems added into the medley mix, such as "Little Stranger in the Manger" and "Ding-a-Ling, Ding-a-Ling".  The arrangements are lively and pleasing.  I've labeled the tracks simply "Track 1", "Track 2", etc, instead of listing out the medley components on each one.

I love the album cover too - nothing like a Christmas morning to get up, put on a shirt, tie and sweater if you're Dad, and a smart dress with Christmas tree brooch if you're Mom, and then running down to the Christmas tree!

Please enjoy the last share of 2015 - Bob Ralston's "Christmas Hymns and Carols".

download link

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Christmas Carillon Classics

Tonight's share (with only one more to go this season) is an album of Christmas carols played on the carillon by master carilloneur John Klein.  A carillon is an instrument composed of many bells that is played with a keyboard, producing a very unique sound, especially when used to play Christmas songs.

There are several Christmas albums around the internet featuring John Klein, the carillon, and Christmas music.  I'm pretty sure that this one has been shared out before - I thought at Ernie's place - but I found this record in good shape for a buck, so thought I'd share it out myself for your listening pleasure this season.

Twenty songs grace this record, many under two minutes, none over three.  All come from the spiritual side of the season.  No Santa Claus or Rudolph, lots of angels, kings, and Bethlehem.

The album was in pretty good shape, although I know there is a skip on one track that I couldn't repair, so my apologies for that.  Still, it's a very enjoyable addition to your Christmas music selections for this season.


download link

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Thursday Share: Favorite Songs of Christmas

As we are quickly winding down the week before Christmas, it's time for another vinyl share.  Tonight's album is "Favorite Songs of Christmas" by The Music City Singers on the Halo Records label.  

According to the back of the album, this is a happy album full of happy songs and recorded by musicians that were happy when the record was cut.  So much happiness.  Whew.

Seriously, there are some notable things about this record.  First of all, none other than Boots Randolph is credited with the 'Sax-Xylophone' (??)   And, members of the Jordanaires (Elvis' backup group) and the Anita Kerr singers appear on the record.  It sounds like a call went out in Nashville one Saturday afternoon to all the available singers hangin' around town.  "Hey!  Whatcha doing today?"  "Nothin' much".  "Let's go cut a Christmas record".  "Okey-doke".  And so here we have "Favorite Songs of Christmas".

The music is pretty good, even though I poke a little fun at the album cover.  Ten songs, nine standards plus the not-so-standard "Christmas Time is the Best Time of the Year".   Good stuff.

If anyone knows what a 'sax-xylophone' is, please comment.  My guess is it's the creation of a rookie copy writer at Halo Records.  My second guess is that Boots did whack on a xylophone when he was taking a break from the sax.  He did play the vibraphone early on, so says the internet.

Please enjoy "Favorite Songs of Christmas"